Building the future: Greenworks academy

11th November 2013


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the environmentalist learns about a training facility on skills for sustainable building launched in 2011

Launched in 2011 by building suppliers Gibbs & Dandy, Graham, Jewson and Minster, the Greenworks Academy is a multipurpose training facility in Birmingham providing education and support to help its businesses and customers reap opportunities in the renewable energy and sustainable building sector. The academy offers courses and accredited training in installing green building solutions, ranging from solar photovoltaics (PV) and rainwater harvesting to external wall insulation and heat pumps.

The UK’s carbon reduction ambitions are putting considerable pressure on the construction industry to deliver low-carbon new builds and cut the energy consumption of existing buildings through refurbishment. These demands can only be met by “an army of construction professionals trained in renewable energy and sustainable building”, says Marcus Jefford, Greenworks operations and marketing director.

Sustainable investment

The academy is the result of a £500,000 investment by Jewson and its sister brands. Jefford says this demonstrates the group’s commitment to training tradespeople and internal staff so that they have the knowledge and skills needed for the sustainable building agenda.

The 15,000 square-foot, purpose-built academy building offers a practical, solution-led approach to training. As well as three training rooms, there is an open-plan space with real-life settings and demonstration areas, where 60 learners can be trained at the same time. These training areas include room sets for wet and dry work, low-level roofing rigs for installing solar thermal and PV systems, external wall insulation models, an elevated drainage pit and live rainwater harvesting systems.

“The demonstration areas enable course attendees to develop hands-on, practical skills in a realistic situation,” says Jefford. “We are constantly having to dismantle and rebuild or alter the sets because renewable technologies and building solutions are evolving all the time.”

The academy has trained about 3,600 internal staff and more than 4,000 customers, and its influence has already exceeded expectations. “We envisaged that the majority of courses and consultancy would be delivered locally, or maybe regionally, but our reach extends as far afield as Scotland and Devon,” says Jefford. “The uptake of courses demonstrates the need for this type of training.”

Training prospectus

The academy runs more than 30 training programmes, and the number is increasing. Since launching, it has delivered more than 50,000 hours of training covering a broad range of introductory, qualification and accreditation courses. These have included renewable energy awareness days, installation training and, more recently, green deal assessor and installer certifications.

“Our training provides clear routes for customers to become members of government-approved certification schemes that encourage high standards in sustainable construction and refurbishment,” comments Jefford.

The training programmes and consultancy support the academy provides are constantly evolving in response to government and legislative changes, and new products. “We have to be an open window to the wide and varied needs of the marketplace and continually improve our offering,” says Jefford.

“There is a huge desire for education and skills in new technologies so that businesses can deliver more sustainable solutions to their customers, and the academy is directly supporting that agenda.”

To complement its practical and hands-on training, the academy also offers e-learning options. Greenworks’ online learning gateway ( enables customers to access modules on a range of sustainable products and solutions, renewable technologies and legislation updates.

The free service provides a host of online tutorials featuring bite-sized chunks of information on areas such as insulation, water management, timber, building fabric solutions and renewables.

Most courses take 40 minutes to an hour and involve spoken tutorials rather than “endless on-screen reading”. There are more than 70 hours of tutorials available on Greenworks’ website and the academy is continually adding new courses.

Case study: Futurebright Solutions

Based in Staffordshire, Futurebright Solutions is benefiting from the training its team underwent at the Greenworks Academy. Futurebright is a new company specialising in the installation and maintenance of solar PV systems. Although director Chris Parkes was experienced in the building trade, to operate a business in renewable energy installation he needed new knowledge, skills and qualifications.

The company’s roofers and electricians, as well as Parkes himself, spent three days at the academy gaining hands-on experience of how to install PV systems and developing an insight into the relevant legislation, market drivers and available products. After further support and training, the company is now accredited under the microgeneration certification scheme and plans to extend its training with Greenworks to cover other renewable technologies so that it can expand the business.

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