“Small and medium sized construction businesses in Wales must act now to up-skill if they want to take advantage of the growing demand for low carbon construction.”
This was the challenge outlined by Mark Farrar, Chief Executive of ConstructionSkills, the Sector Skills Council for construction, as he launched the new Welsh ‘Cut the Carbon’ campaign - www.cskills.org/cutcarbon - today at 3 Assembly Square in Cardiff Bay. A partnership between ConstructionSkills, the National Specialist Contractors’ Council (NSCC) and the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), the campaign will directly support SMEs in Wales – helping them understand what the new carbon legislation will mean for them and equipping them with a tangible mix of knowledge and skills to respond to increased client demand.
Key research* commissioned by ConstructionSkills and industry partners, supports the need for the campaign. It shows that just under half of employers surveyed have a low understanding of the impact the low carbon agenda will have on the sector and skills and training, and although half of employers believe low carbon issues are important for the success of their business, just 9% have a formal strategy or plan to reduce their carbon emissions.
The research also shows that low carbon skills are having a real influence on the clients’ procurement requirements, with this set to grow in Wales, due to the Assembly’s legislative and policy targets, the emergence of the renewables sector and the rising cost of traditional energy. It suggests that there are significant business opportunities for carbon conscious SME contractors in Wales, but also that businesses which are slow to acquire low carbon knowledge and skills, may find it much harder to win work in the coming years.
Essentially the research highlights that low and zero carbon targets together with substantial growth of the renewables sector, are expected to drive the development of new skills needs in the industry, but the risk of skills shortages and gaps could remain significant unless action is taken to address this.
Speaking at the launch, Lesley Griffiths, Deputy Minister for Science, Innovation and Skills, said the skills agenda is a key priority for the Welsh Assembly Government and vital for business growth.
“The Assembly Government is already working with ConstructionSkills and other Sector Skills Councils to support the delivery of new forms of training provision aimed at reducing our carbon emissions. I welcome this latest initiative to ensure that businesses are aware of these growing opportunities and of the critical role skills and training will play in supporting change across the industry.
“I am pleased to note that as well as promoting the need to think differently about sustainability and climate change, Cut the Carbon also recognises the important role the education and training system plays in supporting change across the industry.”
Wyn Prichard, Wales Director for ConstructionSkills, said: “The Welsh Construction and Built Environment sector has a clear responsibility to develop new ways of working to reduce emissions, helping the Welsh Assembly Government to meet its carbon reduction targets.
“These targets not only provide a challenge but also a number of key opportunities for the sector, through programmes such as Arbed, which will help to stimulate the green economy and have the potential to kick start demand for appropriate skills development. The low carbon skills agenda will provide an opportunity to increase employment and productivity so SMEs must take advantage of this growing market.
“The Cut the Carbon campaign will ensure Welsh Construction and Built Environment firms are aware of the challenges the industry is facing and the business benefits to be exploited. We’re working with our campaign partners to help businesses get the right skills in the right place at the right time to deliver against legislation, targets and client demand. Being carbon ready will really help SMEs carve out a future for themselves.”
One way that ConstructionSkills is helping to up-skill the existing workforce with new low carbon techniques and technologies is through its ‘Delivering Low Carbon Skills Project’, which is funded through the Sector Priorities Fund Pilot Programme and will draw down additional support through the European Social Fund (ESF). Working in partnership with Asset Skills, Energy and Utility Skills and Summit Skills, the project will deliver training for employees and learners in a variety of low carbon skills, in both craft and technical disciplines, which will be essential for future employment in the green economy, and will help Wales make the challenging transition to a lower carbon economy.
Richard Jenkins, Director of FMB Wales, said: “The FMB is pleased to support the Cut the Carbon campaign. There are around 1.25 million homes in Wales, the vast majority of, which need retrofitting to make them energy efficient and meet the standard set out by the Welsh Assembly. Research from Oxford University shows that the retrofitting market will be worth at least £3.5bn each year and so it is important that SMEs, which are best placed to do this work, are trained and able to carry out this work. We encourage all FMB members to regularly train their staff and we particularly encourage them to make sure their staff are fully trained and able to do the work associated with the low carbon agenda.”
For more information about the Cut the Carbon campaign, visit www.cskills.org/cutcarbon.