We have discussed the government's Net Zero By 2050 plan many times over the last year, but it remains as relevant today as it was the first time we broached the topic. Despite considerable efforts by the construction industry to invest in sustainability measures and modern methods of construction, it remains unlikely that we will achieve this target unless further measures are implemented. And soon.
One area in which the industry remains well behind where it needs to be is in staffing. Demand for talent to fill vacancies across the sector continues to outstrip availability, and in particular, there is a shortage of applicants with green skills.
What are green skills?
Green skills is a catch-all phrase that relates to an individual's ability to amass and adapt processes, services and products to satisfy the requirements of environmental regulations. These people must have an open mindset, be very flexible in the way in which they deliver, and passionately promote a sustainable and efficient society.
Green skills are becoming more essential by the day as our industry is required to adapt to a changing political and economic landscape. Rules regarding waste management, pollution control and climate change will continue to be tightened over the coming years and without a forward-thinking workforce designing and implementing solutions, it is likely that organisations will, with increasing regularity, be subjected to punitive measures to drive improvement in performance and compliance.
A recent LinkedIn poll identified that almost a third of all UK jobs advertised last year specified that candidates must possess at least one green skill  and the construction industry is one area in which these skills are essential.
One area where shortages are particularly striking is in low-carbon roles such as heat pump technicians. The government's ambitious heat pump installation targets require a workforce of 150,000  qualified technicians, yet there are fewer than 3,000 operating today. Shortages also exist across a number of other renewable energy roles, such as solar power panel installers and wind turbine engineers.
In this post, we briefly touch on two solutions that may become essential for closing the construction industry's green skills gap. These are senior-level accountability, and industry-wide investment.
No business can effectively drive change until its senior management team commits to achieving specified targets and empowers its workforce to deliver against those targets. Increasing the green skills possessed by a company's workforce must start at the top of an organisation's hierarchy.
Leadership teams must commit to an upskilling programme in which workers are enabled and supported to develop their existing skill sets, and skills gaps are identified in order that they can be remedied. The organisation and its leaders must become accountable for the training and development needs of its workforce in order for true change to be enacted.
Upskilling programmes can come at a great cost, and to achieve a satisfactory return on investment, it is often wise for companies within a particular sector to pool resources. When an industry commits to upskilling its workforce to achieve government targets, it is possible to create collaborative training programmes that will empower workers, deliver the changes that are necessary, embed the desired behaviours and improve the attractiveness of the profession to those still in education and considering their future career paths.
There are also significant business benefits to this endeavour, with up to 130% tax relief available for businesses that invest in their employees' green skills .
By partnering with schools and colleges, it is possible to create a pipeline of skilled professionals at a very early stage, addressing future skills shortages before they become an issue and tapping into a new generation that is well equipped to tackle the sustainability challenges of the future.
The vision for success
By making senior managers accountable and providing workers with the dedicated training and development opportunities that they require to close the green skills gap, it is possible to not only create an educated and empowered workforce, but to increase worker morale, reduce staff attrition and make the industry an attractive career option for the next generation.
It is possible that increasing our focus on closing the green skills gap will do far more than simply address government targets. It could revolutionise the industry and drive significant change in the areas where it is most needed to create a sustainable and resilient future for our industry and our planet.
In conclusion, closing the green skills gap in the construction industry requires a collective commitment to change. Whilst significant effort and investment will be required, it is likely that it will pay dividends in the years to come through increased regulatory compliance, greater levels of innovation, dedicated green talent and improved attraction and retention rates.