Sofia Gentile taking measurements in a home

Maths Teacher Retrains for Rewarding Career as Retrofit Coordinator

With more than 400,000 new qualified and competent retrofitters needed to achieve our 2050 carbon-saving targets, opportunity knocks for ambitious individuals wanting to make a real difference to the efficiency of our homes and the benefits this brings to the environment. Taking up the chance, Sofia Gentile, recently undertook a complete career change after 12 years as a teacher and stepped into the world of retrofitting homes. Sofia is now a fully qualified Retrofit Coordinator and Retrofit Assessor after graduating from The Retrofit Academy CIC (TRA) and winning The Retrofit Academy Graduate Award 2023.

Having seen a raft of funding made available by the Government in the form of its Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) and Home Upgrade Grant (HUG), focus for many local authorities, housing associations and their appointed contractors is centring on delivering large-scale high-quality retrofitting. But in order to complete this at scale, there is the need for the development of a large, qualified retrofitter workforce of to facilitate progress and ensure the finished retrofit projects are high quality and PAS 2035 compliant.

For many housing associations, local authorities and contractors, adding a whole house, retrofit-ready workforce to their organisation will require the upskilling of existing employees. But for growth to meet the scale required for decarbonising millions of homes, new entrants from outside the industry can train up to become qualified retrofit assessors, advisors or coordinators, taking up job opportunities as increasing numbers of positions become available. Finding juggling her family and work commitments increasingly difficult, this is exactly what Maths teacher Sofia Gentile looked to do.

A change in career

Having worked in teaching for 12 years, Sofia wanted to find a more flexible but equally rewarding career where she could transfer some of her existing skills and experience while applying her interest in the built environment.  Whilst researching EPC assessments for her own rental property, she discovered the role of a Retrofit Coordinator, which prompted Sofia to look deeper into the assessment process. Having made contact with a current Retrofit Coordinator, she discovered the support available through The Retrofit Academy, where she learnt more about the qualifications, career opportunities and potential earnings that the retrofit sector has to offer.

Building knowledge and skills

From the start, Sofia worked hard to build her knowledge and skills, putting herself through numerous professional training courses. Since completing and qualifying as a Level 5 Retrofit Coordinator in 2020 and then later undertaking the Level 4 Retrofit Assessor course in 2021 with The Retrofit Academy, Sofia has since set up her own business, Innergio Ltd in early 2021, she explains: “We handle an entire project now – from survey and design to signing-off the contractors’ work as complete and compliant. It’s vital that we get it right – and that means having all the necessary qualifications.”

Sofia is now able to offer a full retrofit and assessment service. Sofia works closely with a housing association in East Anglia, Flagship Housing Association, which owns over 30,000 properties in the region and works with local installers to carry out their assessments.

Sofia commented, “Switching careers has been a good move for me – the job involves lots of problem solving and analysis and I feel that I’m making a difference to people’s homes by ensuring that my assessments are of high quality and meet the required standards and that the improvements that come out of the reports create more sustainable homes that will futureproof the properties.  I can now earn almost triple to that in my previous career, I have more travel opportunities within the sector plus I have much more flexible working hours that I can fit in around my family commitments.”

Following the training, each qualified learner of the Retrofit Academy becomes a member of the Academy, where members are kept abreast of any new and relevant industry updates through CPDs, access to a variety of industry events, networking within the sector, in addition to gaining access to further employment and career opportunities.

Sofia added, “I found both the Level 4 and Level 5 training courses quick and easy to register for and both were straightforward to follow with lots of support from professionals. All the information needed was easy to access and readily available with experts available to help and ask any questions.”

Training for the future

Sofia would encourage anyone keen on a career change and an interest in sustainability and the built environment to consider retrofitting and should look to register for the training courses offered by the Retrofit Academy CIC. “The factor that skills bootcamps and funding is always being released by the Retrofit Academy is a real bonus, particularly when starting out on a career change,” Sofia said. “As they are mainly online, you can fit most of the training into your spare time and so continue with your day job and other commitments.”

“Everything we do is about protecting the environment but, it is also about helping people tackle the energy and cost of living crises. I have been lucky to meet loads of people in the industry and to get fantastic support from them along the way. I have in turn passed on my knowledge to my younger brother Simon (who is a talented computer programmer) who has also recently completed the Level 4 Skills Bootcamp with The Retrofit Academy and who now works alongside me and where we complete the full designs for each measure together.”

To find out more about a career in Retrofit and funding available, click here.