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Apprenticeships are helping deliver the green workforce of the future.

First published:
7 March 2023
Last updated:
Decorators hanging wall paper.

Melin homes attracting apprentices with cutting edge green technology

Melin Homes is a registered social landlord, providing more than 4,500 affordable homes across south-east Wales. Its subsidiary company, Candleston Limited, also builds home for sale, the profits of which are ploughed back into affordable housing.

Committed to taking action for the planet, Melin Homes has set about decarbonising its homes.

Adrian Huckin, Executive Director of Innovation, Culture and Improvement, says:

We’ve set ourselves the aspirational target of becoming Net Zero by 2030. That means decarbonising our 4000 homes which is a really big ask but we’re trialling new technologies all the time and it’s really a very exciting time to be working in construction.

Working towards the phasing out of fossil fuel heating, Melin Homes is currently piloting technology at the very cutting edge, including NexGen an infrared wallpaper that provides extremely efficient, low-cost heating.

Adrian says:

The headlines about the cost of living have really exposed some of the problems we’re facing when it comes to energy, and for us, as a social landlord, it’s not only important to help the planet but also to create homes that are affordable.

We’ve been trialling NexGen in a couple of empty homes and we’re shortly going to test it with a couple residents.

We’re exploring other new technologies too such as insulation paint and also hydrogen - we’re hoping we can use existing gas pipework but we’re in the very early stages of development.

It goes without saying, we are of course keen to look at renewables, solar, wind and tidal, and, as opportunities come up for funding, we are installing solar panels on our properties.

Melin Homes is also doing its bit by expanding its fleet of electric vehicles. Its offices are solar-powered and the team is on hand to advise residents so they can conserve energy within their homes.

The advances in reducing emissions is having a positive knock-on effect on skills, training and recruitment.

Melin Homes is at the forefront of skills development, having teamed up with Monmouthshire County Council to set up a construction-based apprenticeship scheme, Y Prentis, in 2012.

Y Prentis is funded by Welsh Government and the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and employs apprentices across a range of construction trades.

Since it was first established, it has helped train more than 500 apprentices.

Increasingly, the focus is on boosting green workforce skills to meet the evolving needs and challenges of today’s construction industry.

Adrian says:

Our vision is to provide site-ready workers that have the confidence and experience to meet the future needs of the construction industry. Through our pilot programmes, where we are testing new innovations, we will see new and emerging skills.

Y Prentis has recently secured funding from Monmouthshire County Council to provide 10 accelerated apprenticeships in plumbing and low carbon electrical.

The focus of the apprenticeship programme will be to develop talent in the installation of technological solutions which are designed to reduce carbon in new buildings as well as the retrofitting of existing buildings to make them more energy efficient.

Of course, we don’t always know what skills will be required in the future as things are moving so fast, but many of the existing skills will certainly be transferable. We do have a skills shortage currently but we believe that the focus on reducing carbon and green energy will make a career in construction more attractive. There is potentially a lot of work for people in the industry and it’s a good opportunity for people to forge a successful career.

There is also a move within the construction sector towards multi-skill trades. While there will always be a need for specialists, there is a shift towards working more flexibly across trades.

We take young people on from the age of 16 years old and understandably, they don’t always know what they want to do. But things are becoming more flexible, you can gain experience of a few trades and make an informed choice as to what you want to do. And you can go on to having a flexible career which can be really appealing.

Jamie Masterton is a carpenter, having qualified through the Y Prentis programme last year:

Everything’s changing and being geared towards going greener. We are receiving regular training on new materials and measures that can help homes be more energy-efficient.

Adrian says:

Gone are the days where the only perceived option to be successful is to go to university. Today, you can earn while you learn new skills from industry professionals. University isn’t always the right route for everyone and apprenticeships allow young people to make an informed choice that’s right for them.

Cassy Taylor, Director of Qualifications Policy and Reform at Qualification Wales, explains that learners will be prepared as Wales drives towards net zero:

A new suite of made-for-Wales qualifications in construction and building services engineering is available to learners in further education and as part of an apprenticeship. With these exciting new qualifications, learners will gain an understanding of the new technologies and techniques being using in the built environment sector to tackle climate change and reduce carbon emissions. The new qualifications will also develop their craft skills to futureproof their abilities.

For more information on Y Prentis, the construction-based shared apprenticeship scheme operating across south-east Wales, visit the Y Prentis website or call 0800 9753 147.

For more information about recruiting an apprentice, visit the apprenticeships website or call 03000 6 03000.

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