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SME workers 'unaware' of the Green Deal, as DECC injects £3m for training

Construction workers in smaller firms are unaware what the Green Deal is, however government announces new funding for the scheme.

SME construction workers are ill-prepared to take advantage when Green Deal work becomes available, according to a new survey.

With just six months to go before the proposed introduction of the green retrofit scheme, smaller employers are yet to train staff for Green Deal work, amongst fears that they will be squeezed out of any work by the retail and energy goliaths linked with the project.

In a survey of employers and training providers by the Green Deal Skills Alliance, respondents complained that the scale of the likes of Tesco and British Gas would make sensible pricing impossible.

They demanded, instead, a suite of fixed prices for assessments, which would prevent larger firms offering these for free.

Respondents were also cautious about the numbers of jobs that could be created, suggesting that the existing workforce would largely be sufficient to see through the work. Moreover, without a sustained government-backed marketing campaign, there will be only short bursts of activity rather than the wide-reaching programme that is intended.

The news comes as the government announced it is putting forward £3m towards the training of insulation installers and CITB-ConstructionSkills will provide a further £500,000 towards the training.

Energy and climate change secretary Edward Davey said: “This money will help hundreds of people gear up for the Green Deal and ensure this scheme is a real success on the ground.

“We have worked hand in hand with industry to get this right and are targeting funding at the areas where there is an urgent need as well as a clear demand. We hope this will encourage businesses across the country to fully prepare their staff for the launch of the Green Deal later this year.”

The Green Deal Skills Alliance report

There was some expectation that the scheme would boost turnover, with around a quarter of respondents expecting upticks of 20 per cent and above. 

But others were less hopeful, with a small per centage even predicting a fall in sales as a result of the scheme.

CITB-ConstructionSkills chief executive Mark Farrar responded to the funding announcement by saying: “Training shortfalls have been identified as one of the main barriers to the success of the scheme. We have invested funds to tackle training shortages and unlock commercial opportunities for SMEs and we welcome DECC’s commitment to skills and training by doing the same thing.

“We are now calling on employers and the supply chain to also invest in sustainable skills training for their workforce, so they too can capitalise on the Green Deal.”

Speaking about the GDSA report, Asset Skills chief executive Sarah Bentley said: “This report gives a frank appraisal of both the skills needed for the Green Deal and the concerns surrounding its introduction.

“Our work with Green Deal Energy Assessors and Advisors concentrates on ensuring quality and consistency of learning which will help address some of these concerns and encourage consumer confidence.

“A well-trained Green Deal workforce will know their responsibilities and will be aware of the code of practices that exist. Asset Skills is pleased to be working with ConstructionSkills and SummitSkills on delivering good-quality training and skills for Green Deal.”

SummitSkills chief executive Keith Marshall said: “Green Deal offers real opportunities for growth, so we are working with our partner sector skills councils to identify training requirements and provide development opportunities that could help employers in our sector through these tough times, as well as meeting the predicted consumer demand for renewable energy.

“Our National Skills Academy for Environmental Technologies is already at the coalface, helping to equip installers with the skills that will be needed if the Green Deal is to achieve its potential to help the UK meet its challenging carbon reduction targets.”

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