Skills bootcamp in place-based decarbonisation

Be the Local Changemaker: Master Place-Based Decarbonisation in the West Midlands! 
Climate change calls for collective action, starting right where you live! This programme empowers you to be a champion of Place-Based Decarbonisation (PBD) and bring net zero to life in your area.

  • Duration: 12 weeks (9 weeks online, 3 in-person visits to centres of excellence for place-based decarbonisation)  
  • Start dates: 15 April or 14 September 

This 12-week intensive programme propels you forward with: 

  • In-depth understanding of place-based decarbonisation concepts: Master the science, policies, and strategies driving the local changes towards a sustainable future. 
  • Unlock the potential of systems thinking: Prepare for a dynamic world by working with experts from Keele and SHAP to unlock the power of systems thinking for decarbonisation.
  • Create high impact action: Create no regrets pathways to reduce emissions with a focus on your building stock.
  • Practical skills development: Hone your communication, project management, and critical thinking skills so you can thrive in this dynamic industry.
  • Real-world connections: Network with industry professionals, collaborate on projects, and gain valuable insights for your career journey.

There is a growing focus from the central government on the need for local areas to participate and drive the net zero transition, supported by research showing that localised action is the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions.

This course will help you by exploring four key areas:

  • Systems thinking for the net zero transition, exploring systemic interconnections and leverage points.  
  • Systems of decarbonisation exploring key sectors of emissions within place, with a focus on the built environment.
  • Financing place-based decarbonisation.  
  • Acting on decarbonisation at a local scale.  

Our changing climate will impact each and every one of us and will shape the future. We all need to step up with the latest skills in net zero and smart energy. This Skills Bootcamp is your launchpad.

  • Industry-backed & relevant: Built with West Midlands leaders, ensuring you learn in-demand skills.
  • Expert-led: Gain insights from our academics and expert practitioners.  
  • Future-focused: Dive deep into net zero, smart grids, renewable energy, and more.
  • UK-leading demonstrator: Understand our leading on-site energy systems and AI systems.  
  • Action-oriented: Develop practical skills to drive real change in your organization.
  • Flexible learning: Blend online modules with in-person workshops for a rich experience. 
Who is this course for?
  • Future-thinking organisations developing their net zero strategies, particularly those in housing, and local authorities.
  • Professionals and individuals seeking to transition into the net zero and smart energy sector.
  • Anyone passionate about making a positive impact on the planet. 
  • Gain 15 University credits at Level 5 study. 

This course is delivered mainly online with a mixture of synchronous (at a specific time) and asynchronous (completed at any time) activity. Online training is delivered Tuesdays 10:00-13:00. Three days in person at leading sites in Keele, Nottingham and Birmingham. 

Course breakdown
Part One: Strategic approaches to decarbonisation (Weeks 1-4) 
  • Understanding place-based decarbonisation  
  • Systems thinking for decarbonisation
  • Systems mapping for decarbonisation  
  • Recognising local leverage points  
  • UK decarbonisation pathways  
  • Transport and energy system decarbonisation  
  • Site visit to Keele University 
Part Two: Delivering local solutions (Weeks 5-8)
  • Understanding system wide energy demand  
  • Build environment decarbonisation  
  • Domestic building decarbonisation pathways  
  • Non-domestic building decarbonisation  
  • Understanding retrofit  
  • Delivering deep retrofit  
  • Breaking down non-technical barriers  
  • Site visit to Energiesprong Nottingham  
Part Three: Financing the transition (Weeks 9-12)
  • Financing place-based decarbonisation  
  • Novel financing mechanisms  
  • Localised circular economy  
  • Creating value from waste  
  • Developing local skills  
  • Site visit to Midlands Metro Alliance
  • Optional assessment: delivering place-based decarbonisation 
Our expertise

Keele University was awarded Global Sustainability Institution of the Year 2021 at the International Green Gown Awards. Sustainability is central to our research, education, campus and operations and we are committed to embedding sustainability into everything we do. 

Keele’s Smart Energy Network Demonstrator, HyDeploy and Low Carbon Generation Projects have all worked with the regional industry base to address climate action on the university campus, as well as pass on knowledge and learning. 

The Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) launched at Keele in 2018, bringing together sustainability expertise across the university from all disciplines. ISF works closely with non-academic partners to tackle solutions to real sustainability challenges, and integrates research, education and practice activities.  

The CPD on this Skills Bootcamp is also informed by Keele University’s research and development experience, drawing upon nationally-leading research such as Smart Local Energy System design through the InnovateUK funded Zero Carbon Rugeley, the gas industry-led HyDeploy hydrogen blending project, and Europe's largest Smart Energy Network Demonstrator and integrated Low Carbon Energy Generation park at Keele University, all working closely with industrial partners. 

Our bootcamps were recognised in 2023 by Ofsted as Outstanding as a result of the quality of the education offered. 

SHAP expertise

The Sustainable Housing Action Partnership (SHAP) was set up by Sustainability West Midlands with regional development agency funding in 2005, to develop a best practice hub for existing and new low carbon housing in sustainable places. SHAP draws on a network of housing/placemaking organisations including local authorities, social housing providers, and construction companies for evidence of current issues and innovative solutions in the low carbon housing and placemaking sectors.

SHAP brings technical expertise on low carbon housing, urban design and net zero neighbourhood planning. SHAP’s team includes experts on placemaking, smart energy systems, circular economy, modelling and forecasting, retrofit, and finance. Over the past few years, SHAP has completed projects developing sustainable housing knowledge and insight with Innovate UK, Local Government Association (LGA), West Midlands Combined Authority, West Yorkshire Combined Authority and EEM. 

Teaching Staff

Tom Bedford (Keele University) 

Tom will be your main point of contact throughout this course. Tom has a BSc in Environment and Sustainability and an MSc in Global Sustainability Solutions. With extensive experience in the net zero transition including delivering key renewable energy projects, supporting local authorities on their net zero transitions and net zero consultancy in the private sector, Tom supports several key organisations in the region, playing a critical role in the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Climate Commission and sitting on the Board of Directors for Chase Community Solar. In recent years, Tom has conducted research on the net zero transition with a focus on place-based decarbonisation, addressing Midlands skills deficits, improving governance for the transition and addressing the twin challenges of climate change and social justice.    

Richard Bubb (SHAP)

Richard is supporting the delivery of the training using case studies and research developed by SHAP on decarbonising buildings at scale. Richard is also delivering the circular economy elements using tools developed to help create circular strategies to address a changing climate. Richard’s recent work includes developing a retrofit roadmap for a Smart Local Energy Scheme, coaching in sustainable entrepreneurship and supporting social housing providers to decarbonise their housing stock. Richard is trained in several renewable technologies, is a qualified energy assessor and retrofit co-ordinator and holds an MBA.

Professor Zoe Robinson (Keele University)

Zoe is a Professor of Sustainability in Higher Education and Director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at Keele University. She also held the role of University Director of Education for Sustainability for 10 years with responsibility for embedding sustainability across the curriculum and student experience. She has 17 years of experience around sustainability transformations, working across climate change education, community engagement and supporting Local Authorities and other organisations around climate change and energy transitions. Zoe is currently leading research on user and community-centric design approaches to smart local energy system design and place-based decarbonisation and consumer perceptions of low carbon energy technologies including perceptions of blended hydrogen in domestic settings. Zoe has worked in an advisory capacity on education for sustainability for a number of national organisations and is Co-Chair of the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges. Zoe also currently Co-Chairs the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Climate Commission, bringing together leaders in organisations from different sectors across the region to collaborate on accelerating and aligning action on climate and nature recovery.

Matt Dean

Since completing an electrical engineering apprenticeship with Siemens before starting at Keele, Matt has developed extensive hands-on experience in energy systems management. Matt plays a critical role in managing the renewable energy systems and smart energy integration. His expertise helps users understand the practical application of net zero solutions.  


To be eligible for the funded version of this course you must meet the following criteria: 

  • You are over 19 years old  
  • You have a right to live and work in the UK  
  • You have lived in the UK for the last three years (certain visa exemptions apply)
  • You live in the West Midlands (places)  
  • You have not completed a funded skills bootcamp in the last financial year 


  • Skills Bootcamps are part-funded by the Department for Education.  
  • For learners independent of an organisation and looking to find work within 6 months of completing the bootcamp, this bootcamp is free of charge.  
  • For self-employed learners looking to use these skills in their business, this course is free of charge.  
  • For learners employed in an SME (less than 250 staff), 10% of the course fee is required, currently £390.
  • For learners employed in large organisations (250 or more staff), 30% of the course fee is required, currently £1,170.
  • For learners in employment, your employers must be willing to discuss course outcomes with Keele University, with the aim of increasing the responsibility of your staff after the course.  

Financial support

Keele University recognises that fees may limit your organisation’s participation in this course. To enable your participation, we offer a full bursary on a case-by-case basis. We particularly invite SMEs, non-profits and VSCEs to apply for a full bursary. 

You will have access to a wide range of student support such as academic skills support, Keele University’s Careers and Employability Service, including 24/7 digital resources and Student Services, plus access to LinkedIn Learning to continue your professional development. You will continue to have support from our Careers and Employability Service for three years after completing the Skills Bootcamp. 

We have produced an academic skills and personal learning toolkit to support you as a work-based learner. As part of this you will undertake a skills audit at the beginning of the Skills Bootcamp so you can identify your strengths and prioritise access to resources to support your specific areas of focus. 

There is additional support from our dedicated School and Faculty Student Experience Support Officers (SESOs) with the designated mature students SESO holding a specific remit for supporting our work-based learning community, providing a direct contact link to support. 

"I loved the format of a two-hour taught session each week with the flexibility to do additional study. I also really enjoyed the two face-to-face days on campus at Keele University. I learned so much, and things that related to my personal life as well as business. It has changed my outlook and helped me focus on small changes that make big differences that I’m now imparting on my family and colleagues.

"I am sharing my new knowledge on Carbon Net Zero and Smart Energy options as we work to deliver the pipeline which includes new Rollercoasters, some smaller rides, new and rethemed Indoor immersive attractions, waterparks, hotels, Sealife Centres, to name a few.”

Merlin Entertainment

"The course has really helped me clarify what needs to be done to reach net zero and helped answer some of the challenging questions which we are now being asked as an organisation.  This is particularly important for TMT First in our mission to be industry leaders in sustainability.

"I have put my newfound knowledge to good use to aid in the development of our organisation’s net zero strategy more broadly.  I’ve also gained insight as to how we as a company can reduce our impact going forwards and have a range of ideas which we could take forward to make a difference on our organisational emissions."

TMT First

"The training was detailed without being overwhelming, and helped me build a good base to work on climate related issues moving forward. It was tangible and digestible, whilst also broadening my knowledge. I learnt a lot and now know where to find the right tools and resources to work towards change."

BBC Radio Producer

"The training really helped in my overall understanding in the areas of Smart Energy and Net Zero and gave me more confidence in expressing my views and findings to colleagues at all levels of my organisation."

Johnsons Tiles

"I found it easy to follow your brilliant online sessions and enjoyed the Breakout Room chats / listening to others and what they are doing for their organisations. And found the online Keele Learning Environment so convenient and the knowledge was easily accessible - I was so glad that recordings were uploaded for me to revisit all that knowledge.  I was glad of the 2 days in-person training as well at the University.  It was wonderful to actually see the great energy solutions actually reducing carbon emissions and greenhouse gases in real time, and in a real working life Environment, so great to hear about other examples actually already implemented and working for whole UK."

Local business

Skills for Life Skills Bootcamp logo Skills Bootcamps are part of the Government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee, helping everyone gain skills for life.

They are part-funded, flexible courses of up to 16 weeks, giving people the opportunity to build up sector-specific skills and fast-track to an interview with a local employer.

Skills Bootcamps are part-funded by the Department for Education.  Organisations will be required to fund between 10%-30% of the cost, depending on their size.