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News & opinion

28 JUN 2022

Helping construction to bridge net-zero skills gap

Overcoming the net-zero carbon skills shortage has become increasingly important in UK construction, accelerated by the race to retrofit the country’s entire building stock. Half the current construction workforce will need training or retraining in one form or another, according to CITB’s Skills for Net Zero Report.

As industry demands evolve, local authorities will play a pivotal role in helping employers to upskill new and existing staff. Councils can help to provide local firms with the necessary construction skills by signing up to the RICS Support Packages.

With growth come growing pains

Construction has recovered more quickly than expected from the COVID-19 pandemic, with several indicators showing sustained growth in 2022/23.

But with this growth come greater skills challenges. Increased digitalisation, better data collection and the use of machine learning are changing the nature of construction, and as these technologies become more prevalent, a new generation of workers must be prepared to use them.

By 2028, 350,000 new construction roles are needed if the government is to fulfil its Net Zero Strategy. But what are the skills that workers will need?

Net zero: A learning curve for all

Retrofitting buildings to ensure they are net-zero carbon will require extensive use of artificial intelligence and automation. Demand for project managers, software developers and technology maintenance staff who can oversee the use of these technologies will therefore increase.

But workers throughout construction must understand net-zero strategies and best practice in retrofitting. Surveyors, designers, and tradespeople will need training in net-zero repair, maintenance, and improvement to retrofit sustainable measures in traditional buildings. A combination of pathway training for using sustainable materials will be essential.

Net-zero competencies are especially important for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs account for most construction activity in the UK, oversee the majority of public-sector contracts, and are largely responsible for the projects that serve local communities. So how can these organisations keep up with new skill requirements?

Skills gaps result in increased construction costs, as it becomes harder to source skilled labourers. Educators and employers will therefore need to collaborate to equip workers with the skills they need now, and for the future of construction.

CITB’s report forecasts that training programmes will need to be continually re-evaluated and adapted to support lifelong learning, so workers can easily retrain and upskill as demands evolve.

How RICS Support Packages can help

Addressing skills gaps in an organisation has numerous benefits for employers in the built environment. Though a skills shift can prompt businesses to scout for new talent, it is often easier and cheaper to invest in employee training.

Training is also directly linked with employee retention, the Work Institute finds. If an organisation invests in an employee’s education, it not only increases their value but shows them they are valued.

The RICS Support Packages help businesses to retain skilled, experienced professionals and continue to effect positive change in the built environment. Employees can gain unlimited access to a range of construction industry learning resources, with training adapted to suit their professional development needs.

Supporting employees in their careers

The rapid rate of change in the construction industry means that workers will learn most new skills on the job.

The RICS packages promote a culture of continuous learning by giving employees the flexibility and autonomy to learn while they work. In addition, employers can easily identify future skills, helping them to futureproof their organisation.

Users can access e-learning modules, workshops, and professional tools such as isurv, which are regularly updated to reflect industry trends.

Developing new leaders

By incorporating leadership training into employee development, organisations can also be better prepared for contingencies. The RICS packages promote a culture of continuous learning by challenging users’ leadership thinking and skills, so organisations will always have a successor in place for a leader who leaves.

Saving costs intelligently

Businesses save more when they understand the extent of learning their employees need. RICS packages are designed to complement any existing training; whatever learning pathway employees are on, they can access an intelligent resource toolkit that can be tailored to fit their organisation’s needs.

This includes built-in analytics to help employers manage staff learning and track their return on investment: with access to employee user reports, they can monitor progress and engagement, manage training budgets, and ensure the right support is always available.

Staying competitive

With each employee an organisation retains, it has an opportunity to fill a skills gap. Not only does upskilling help smaller businesses compete with larger firms, it pushes those larger firms to improve as well.

This can help to standardise net-zero competencies in construction, accelerating the improvement of housing and public-sector building standards.

Identifying net-zero skills needs

Organisations should update their skills plans to improve construction industry practices and build momentum towards a net-zero future. By understanding the skills needed for the future to help attract and retain talent, train a new generation of workers, and upskill current employees, councils can ensure the right standards, qualifications and training are available.

Learn how the RICS Support Packages can help.