After several years of visioning between Sunderland College and Sunderland City Council, and following subsequent financial backing from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, (DLUHC), Sunderland has now been given the green light to become an official training partner of The Retrofit Academy CIC, who are the driving force in retrofit knowledge and skills.

The original idea for a nationally leading construction skills centre was first explored in 2018 when Sunderland City Council and Sunderland College met to map out the future of construction, renewable energy and retrofit skills in the City of Sunderland and wider region.

Levelling Up Funds (LUF1) of £20m was awarded to Sunderland City Council, £9m of which is committed to funding the development of a new Housing Innovation and Construction Skills Academy (HICSA) at the Sheepfolds site, part of the wider Riverside Sunderland masterplan, the most ambitious city centre regeneration project in the UK.

HICSA received planning permission in April 2022. However, the partnership is celebrating the facility becoming a flagship Retrofit Academy Training Hub after partnering with Retrofit Academy CIC to deliver leading retrofit qualifications.

Considering the UK’s 2050 net zero targets, the requirement for 1.8 homes to be retrofitted per minute across the UK, and the need for significant new entrants to the construction sector to meet this retrofit challenge, news of The Retrofit Academy Hub has been hailed a major step forward in a long-term strategy to deliver the resources required to meet these targets.

Sunderland City Council Chief Executive Patrick Melia, said: “After years of planning and hard work, I am thrilled we have managed to secure Retrofit Academy Hub status for Sunderland’s Housing Innovation and Construction Skills Academy.

“The Retrofit Academy Hub will be our connected gateway supplying a skilled pipeline of trained workers in digital construction, retrofit and renewable energy, a vital resource considering the transformative infrastructure investment occurring across the city.”

Ellen Thinnesen, Chief Executive Education Partnership North East, said: “For several years Sunderland College and Sunderland City Council have been working on this bold strategy which has always been about moving away from how further education colleges traditionally operate, to a new model of investment and delivery. In partnership with several skills providers, we look forward to sharing more exciting details in due course.”

David Pierpoint, Chief Executive of The Retrofit Academy CIC said “We are delighted to award Sunderland’s Housing Innovation and Construction Academy the licence to become an official Retrofit Academy Hub for the North East LEP area. The new Housing Innovation and Construction Skills Academy is without doubt the perfect home to connect our national partnerships and deliver our leading retrofit curriculum.”

Why Education Partnership North East (EPNE)?

Highly commended - Employer of the Year, Sunderland Echo Portfolio Awards 2019

Engagement with Employers - Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Award 2017

(Sunderland College On-programme Survey 2017)

Selected by DfE for 2021 T Level pilot to deliver the new high-quality technical qualifications.

98% overall employer satisfaction - Employer Survey 2018/19