Sophia Gentile, a New Anglia LEP Skills Bootcamp graduate inspecting a home for retrofit

Photo source: Sophia Gentile, New Anglia LEP Skills Bootcamp graduate

Commendable efforts are being made across Suffolk to ensure the retrofit of energy inefficient homes. While the Warm Homes Suffolk initiative is ensuring that the most vulnerable households receive support, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership is tackling the shortage of trained installers in the county.

Almost 50 people have been trained in retrofitting through Skills Bootcamps, providing a much-needed boost to the workforce needed for the delivery of warmer homes.

The skilling-up of 46 people in Norfolk and Suffolk in three levels of retrofitting through the Government funded initiative comes after Suffolk’s Public Sector Leaders agreed to create a Fuel Poverty Retrofit team to support those struggling most with their energy bills.

A Fuel Poverty Retrofit Team will work with residents living in energy inefficient properties to address funding issues and ensure a consistent supply of installers.

An extension of the Warm Homes Suffolk Scheme, the move is expected to lead to around £50m worth of work and deliver almost £4.8m in combined potential savings for households through insulation, air source heat pumps and the replacement of single glazing.

 Improving the energy efficiency of homes is a key determination of Suffolk’s Climate Emergency Plan, as doing so will help the county to address climate change and achieve its goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2030.

Councillor Andy Drummond, Chair of the Environment Portfolio Holders Group is proud of the work happening in the county: “Suffolk faces a tremendous task to retrofit our aging housing stock to become more energy efficient, but with dedicated initiatives in place such as the LEP’s skills bootcamps, Warm Homes Suffolk and its financial support from our public sector leaders, demonstrates that Suffolk is excelling at this challenge.”

 More than 62,000 properties in Suffolk are thought to have the worst Energy Performance (EPC) grades of E, F and G and 28% of its households are facing fuel poverty. The new team will strive to secure funding to meet the needs of the most vulnerable and ensure minimum stands for the private rental sector.

Just as crucial as the money to fund installations is an available workforce that can meet the demand, and 46 people in Norfolk and Suffolk have received training in domestic retrofitting thanks to the Skills Bootcamps coordinated by New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.

They have received training in three levels: Retrofit Advice (Level 3), Award in Domestic Retrofit Assessment (Level 4) and Diploma in Retrofit Coordination & Risk Management (Level 5).

Up to around 40 more people are expected to be trained in retrofitting after a successful bid by New Anglia LEP to deliver more Skills Bootcamps in Wave 4 of the initiative.

The LEP, in partnership with Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils, was successful in gaining £1m funding to deliver Skills Bootcamps on behalf of the Department for Education.

Bev Wallman, the LEP’s Skills Broker, said: “We know there is a skills deficit in this sector and these Bootcamps will not only help bridge that gap and provide green jobs, but also support efforts to increase energy efficiency and reduce fuel poverty.”

Among those to complete a Domestic Retrofit Assessment Level 4 was Sophia Gentile, a qualified teacher who retrained as a retrofit coordinator when she saw “a real need to make people’s homes easier and cheaper to keep warm and dry”.

Sophia set up her own business in 2021, Retrofitco, and was one of the first women in the East of England’s retrofit industry. She liaises between contractors, property owners and tenants to coordinate the delivery of high standard retrofitting.

“Everything we do is about protecting the environment but, this winter in particular, it is also about helping people tackle the energy and cost of living crises,” she says.