A plethora of new construction roles from glaziers to gas fitters and ventilation contractors to plumbers need to be created over the next seven years for the UK to be carbon-free by 2050.

This is according to the Construction Industry Training Board, CITB, latest analysis Building Skills for Net Zero. The forecast is based on modelling the skills profile of the workforce required to deliver net-zero using climate change committee data.

It estimates by 2028, additional decarbonisation work will have created demand for 86,000 construction project managers, 33,000 building envelope specialists and 59,000 plumbers and heat and ventilation contractors.

CITB strategy and policy director Steve Radley said: “Net-zero presents a huge challenge for construction but an even greater opportunity to create a more productive industry that’s also a more attractive career option.”

The organisation believes Covid and the expected rise in unemployment offers construction the chance to position itself as a career destination of choice for those who want to make a difference.

Mr Radley said it was important for a ‘joined-up’ approach across the built environment on what skills are needed and organising the right courses and qualifications to deliver them.

“Government also has a key role in specifying what it wants and creating the pipeline of demand that will give industry the confidence to invest in the skills we need and for providers to invest in the courses we need to deliver these skills,” he said.

Carr & Carr Builders managing director Chris Carr said the skills challenge around net-zero was huge but that the CITB had shown how it could be done.

“A big part of it will be upskilling the current workforce so that they understand what sustainable building is all about,” he said.

Cutting VAT on home improvements would generate demand

The Federation of Master Builders, FMB, said that local builders should be at the heart of meeting the skills and training needs.

FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: “There is an urgent need for the government to take action ahead of COP26 and commit to a long-term energy efficiency retrofit strategy, that is backed by public investment, to provide confidence to both builders and householders.

“Only then will we create the demand for training and upskilling that is needed to bring in new entrants and unlock the workforce of the future.”

The FMB wants a cut in VAT from 20 to five per cent on home improvements – it estimates over five years this would generate an extra 345,000 jobs in construction and the wider economy. The National Federation of Builders’ heritage division would like a VAT cut on home improvements of traditional buildings, estimated to account for nine million of the UK’s least energy efficient homes.

Hank Zarihs Associates said development and refurbishment finance lenders agreed that a tax cut would stimulate demand among people to make their homes greener.

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, has set a target of cutting the UK’s emissions by at least 68 per cent by 2030.

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Shiraz Khan