28,000 Skilled Workers Could be Needed to Retrofit London’s Homes
A new report has stated that retrofitting central London’s homes and buildings could require 28,000 skilled workers. How can the industry work to increase the workforce and tackle the current skills shortage? 

Local government leaders in central London have called for urgent action to see retrofit skills be boosted, as a new analysis shows the scale of work needed to reduce carbon emissions from homes and buildings. 

The analysis was carried out by construction industry experts Whole Life Consultants on behalf of Central London Forward, which represents the 12 central London local authorities. 

Driving up retrofitting is crucial to creating sustainable communities

According to the research, retrofitting every property in the capital with an EPC level C or below would require 148,000 person-years of labor. This is equivalent to the output of 148,000 people working full-time for a year. 

By the end of the decade and dependent on the pace of roll-out, a workforce of between 19,000 and 28,000 skilled workers would be required to deliver retrofit in central London alone. 

Councillor Kieron Williams, Chair of Central London Forward and Leader of Southwark Council explained that retrofit is key to creating thriving communities: “Retrofitting homes across London and the country has the potential to be a huge win, win, win – bringing thousands of good quality jobs, cheaper energy bills, and lower carbon emissions.

But we need urgent action to ramp-up training, so we have the skilled workforce needed to deliver warmer, greener homes.

Thousands of people will need to be trained in retrofitting techniques such as installing high-quality wall, floor, and roof insulation, and installing smart renewable energy systems. 

A place-based approach could be at the centre of retrofit skills development, but this can only be achieved with supportive national policy. 

The Councillor highlighted that to see retrofit skills developed, funding is essential: “Government must invest to pump-prime the market. The stop-start approach to funding over recent years has not worked. It has left businesses without the certainty they need to scale up delivery, skill up their workforce and drive down costs. 

“We need a new long-term plan, working with local authorities and business so that together we can upgrade Britain’s drafty homes.”

Local authorities are calling on the government to scale up retrofit investment

A total of 60 per cent of the labour demand relates to retrofitting homes, with almost 40 per cent relating to non-domestic properties. 

The research reveals that the number of scaffolders required to retrofit buildings in just the 12 central London boroughs goes beyond the total number of scaffolders expected to be working across the capital as a whole in the next four years. 

In other trades, such as roofing, glaziers, and building envelope specialists, the demand generated by retrofit in central London exceeds 20 per cent of the likely workforce for these trades across London. 

Ahead of the Autumn Statement on 22 November 2023, central London’s local authorities are calling on the Chancellor to scale up investment in retrofit, including through increasing and accelerating the £3.8 billion Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund. 

In addition, it is calling on the Chancellor to work with local authorities in central London and beyond to develop local retrofit partnerships. 

If action is taken now to tackle the current skills shortage in retrofitting, a rapid scale-up of energy efficiency work will be enabled. This will be a domino effect in boosting local economies and jobs, tackling the climate emergency, and cutting down energy bills for people when they need support the most.