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Historic England tool pinpoints the 50% shortfall in skills pool

Traditional skills as basic as pointing are in short supply

Historic England is calling for action on getting more people into traditional building trades – including plumbing, electrical and plastering – to support the necessary carbon reduction works.

Approximately six million buildings across England were built before 1919 and would be considered of traditional construction. In March 2023 Historic England published Heritage and Carbon: Addressing the Skills Gap.

On average, 86,500 new workers per year will be needed until 2050 to retrofit England’s traditionally constructed buildings in order to meet Net Zero targets, the government agency says.

Historic England has now fleshed out its work on skills shortages and produced an online tool showing what trades are needed where.

It is encouraging the 38 employer representative bodies responsible for implementing local skills improvement plans (LSIPs) across England to develop proposals to train new and existing workers on how to work with traditionally constructed buildings, including skills bootcamps, apprenticeships and training courses, designed to provide the right skills for local retrofitting needs.

By using Historic England’s new online map, people can look at each local authority area in England and see the average number of new workers needed per year up to 2050, the estimated direct economic output this would generate and the types of skills – from plumbers and plasterers to planners – needed for their region. 

The data shows that Greater Manchester needs around 5,000 workers to retrofit the city region’s buildings built before 1919; Liverpool City Region needs 2,800;  West Yorkshire 3,500; and Greater London 16,300.

Ian McDermott, chief executive of the housing association Peabody, said: “More than six million homes were built before 1919 and improving as many of them as we can will undoubtedly transform the lives of the people who live in them, making them cheaper to heat and run, while bringing significant economic and environmental benefits. But the UK has only half the skilled workers it needs to do the job.

“This new data will be invaluable in highlighting the gaps and opportunities in each region. It will allow policymakers, local authorities, employers and education providers to offer the training that’s needed in their area. This kind of targeting will be crucial if the country is to build a national workforce capable of meeting the UK’s climate goals while unlocking the additional benefits.”

Historic England’s director of policy and evidence, Ian Morrison, said: “Prioritising the re-use and retrofit of historic buildings helps to conserve those places that give us a sense of local identity and make us proud – this is also essential for getting to net zero by 2050.  We urge decision-makers across the country to work with us and act now with this data to build England’s retrofit workforce.”

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