21st Jul 2023
Today we meet one of the newest members of our team. Michael Huth joins us as our new Net Zero Skills Hub Manager and explains how he wants to make a difference within the construction industry and beyond.
Hi Michael and welcome to Abingdon & Witney College. How are you settling in?
Great thanks. It’s not crazy yet as [the students] are on summer holidays. Everyone is nice, and I meet different people every day. It’s a great time to join because I can settle in and get everything set up for September.
Could you tell us a little about who you are and where you’ve come from?
Of course. I’m originally from Stuttgart, about an hour from the Black Forest in Southwest Germany. I came [to the UK] about 32 years ago as part of my studies, doing international business studies, and now live in Oxford with my wife and children.
Most of my job life has really been around construction, building supplies, renewables, and sustainable building materials. For the last 10 years I have been involved in the supply chain for domestic retrofit. But I’ve also done crazy things like piano removals and managing cleaning businesses.
Piano removals is not as simple as some people might think. Did you enjoy it?
We did brilliant stuff like, building scaffolding and using forklift trucks and cranes to lift pianos to upper floors. I very much ran it as a social enterprise and enable several people in difficult circumstances to have meaning employment or volunteering opportunities. I loved it. It was great and I worked with some great people.
Outside of moving pianos, what other experience do you have?
I’ve worked in technical sales for a manufacturer of wood fibre insulation, which locks up lots of carbon, so that’s quite a sustainable building material. But before that I set up several renewable energy showrooms and worked with installers so I could gather bits of knowledge and experience. I then went on to deliver lots of CPD training to architects and other [construction] professionals. I enjoyed training staff, mentoring, and championing younger, newer people to be the best at what they were doing.
In the last three years I worked for a cooperative that specialised in delivering domestic retrofit. I looked after getting the right contractors selected and then taking them through a due diligence and vetting process. This is where my ambition of getting into education was rekindled.
We’ve all heard that the Government wants us to be Net Zero by 2050. Do you feel the construction industry is set up to help achieve that ambition?
Through [my] work for the cooperative Retrofit Works, I realised the state of our skills base is really lacking in terms of numbers and competencies, especially in construction. The skills gap is one thing, but there is also a huge lack of people in the first place.
Our government is the only one in Europe to put our Net Zero Carbon ambitions into law. The challenge however is that we [still need] tens of thousands of skilled people we haven’t got yet to deliver on net zero.
So, what made you choose to work with Abingdon & Witney College?
In the past I have turned down jobs that could have given me double the salary by now, but which would not have the same quality of life. So, I’ve been quite selective, doing the right thing, working with the right people for social impact, but also environmental benefits.
A job role needs to be just right for me. For four years I was working on a remote basis and that was just terrible for my head, even though the job was great. I really wanted to find something where I can be part of a team, I can work alongside colleagues, and do something that allows me to do a bit of teaching, enrichment and CPD training for industry professionals. I just want to see people prosper and do well in what they do.
I have 4 children and have personal relationship with the college as two of them came here. I am passionate to see children enabled within the education system, rather than broken by it. That’s why I love the college. I really believe in further education and apprenticeships. In Germany, it’s much more common and a bit more branded by the guilds and the apprenticeships. I think just lifting your finger in Germany, you need an apprenticeship!
You must have lots of plans, so could you tell us in a nutshell, what you’d like to achieve in this new role?
What we would really like to achieve is to create relevant and effective training for the construction sector that is sustainable and not just green for the sake of the label, but that really has an impact on how we create and maintain buildings.
I also really want to help young people discover that Construction is not just for those who view themselves as less academic. It includes everyone who wants to develop their creative, digital or engineering skills and to make a difference. There is a lot of tech and digital tech that is needed for construction already. But to continue going forward we need to create the environment that will help enable the right kind of training and skills that appeal to techy people, as well as those who really want to make a difference environmentally and socially. There's a lot that we can address through retrofit and through new build!
I'm really, excited. If it's a bit of a pinnacle of my career really and I'm not afraid to say that!
We’d like to thank Michael and wish him all the best in his new role.
About our Net Zero Skills Hub
Abingdon & Witney College realises that as the scope for renewable technologies grow, knowledge about these new products, their installation and maintenance is expected to become a standard requirement for newly qualified Plumbing and Heating Engineers.
That is why we set up the Net Zero Skills Hub to provide a place for our students to stay at the forefront of the industry whilst embracing the opportunity to educate ambassadors for change.
Alongside our apprenticeships and full-time courses, we also offer introductory day courses, week-long conversion courses and top-up courses for already qualified gas engineers looking to upskill. We also provide training for full time students (aged 16+) who have just left school, adults wanting to expand their knowledge, and professionals looking to expand their services.
If you would like to find out more about our Net Zero Skills Hub then why not explore some of the links below?