The construction industry is embracing the challenge of meeting the 2050 net zero climate emissions target but its ability to get there in time may be impeded by a growing skills gap.

The skills issue is not new to the sector, but two reports published in recent weeks gave a clear warning that rapid change is needed now to create the talent required to achieve success.

The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) ‘Skills for a Green Recovery’ report highlights a perfect storm that may significantly slow down the progress on delivering the government’s vision for 2050.

It identifies that up to 750,000 construction workers could retire or be about to retire over the next fifteen years.  It goes on to say that not enough is being done to replace these workers with only 20% of construction workers aged under 30.

A report from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) added some interesting detail on how the skills gap needs to be filled. It warns that construction will need the equivalent of 350,000 new roles by 2028 to achieve the 2050 net zero target. That’s 50,000 new roles every year for the next seven years.

The CITB points out that 80% of the critical work required to achieve the targets will be on retrofitting buildings that already exist, which could account for 95% of future built environment emissions.

The IPPR also discovered that skills and employment programmes in the infrastructure industry are hamstrung by a lack of collective action among firms, along with a lack of leadership in government.

The net zero target, along with the launch of the Construction Playbook, creates an opportunity for the industry to reset now. The sector needs to double down on the leadership, innovation and collaboration that has seen it manage the COVID crisis and bring clarity to the skills and learning needed for future success.

A joined up approach that recognises early how employers’ needs are changing is essential. Everyone in the sector needs to realise that they have a role to play.