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It’s time to upskill to win green work

CITB-ConstructionSkills chief executive Mark Farrar looks ahead to 2013 and the important milestones for SMEs in terms of low-carbon industry skills. 

It is no secret that 2013 is set to be another difficult year for construction SMEs, with Experian’s autumn forecasts predicting a further 2.5 per cent reduction in construction output during the year. Yet we can expect to see growing opportunities for construction SMEs to win low-carbon building work.

Backed by government initiatives, reducing the environmental impact of UK buildings remains a significant national priority and in 2013 there will be some important developments. It is vital that SMEs have the right skills and training in place to take advantage of this ever-growing area of our industry.

On 28 January, the consumer finance programmes to underpin the Green Deal go live, meaning the scheme will be fully operational for both domestic and non-domestic projects. This is also expected to be preceded by revisions to the Green Deal Code of Practice and framework regulations.  

The potential for SMEs with the right qualifications and accreditations is great. The government expects the scheme to kick-start £14bn of investment over the next decade and support at least 65,000 new insulation and construction jobs by 2015. While this represents a massive opportunity for SMEs, low-carbon construction is far more than this one scheme.

Government initiatives such as the Renewable Heat Incentive and new technologies, in particular building information modelling, are set for widespread implementation in 2013. And with changes to Building Regulations Part L set to come into force in October 2013, we can expect greater focus on ‘green’ construction than ever.

Green skills to pay the bills

To benefit from work opportunities, the industry’s SME workforce will need the right low-carbon skills and qualifications. The new PAS 2030 certification – mandatory for becoming a Green Deal installer – is also expected to apply for other types of low-carbon work, so it is important that firms take steps to upskill and gain this low-carbon knowledge.

Good progress was made in 2012 towards bridging the skills gap, with around 250 companies having already gained accreditation as Green Deal installers.

However, there are still a number of smaller firms who have not taken steps to gain low-carbon skills. Those that continue to ignore the need for green training could see their bottom lines suffer significantly in 2013 and beyond.

The support is already in place for firms who want to learn more about low-carbon construction and take steps to gain the right skills and training.

The National Construction College will run a number of low-carbon focused courses in 2013, including topics such as Green Deal awareness and low-carbon retrofit. A full list of courses can be viewed at cskills.org/supportbusiness/courses.

SMEs can also access the CITB-ConstructionSkills Cut the Carbon web portal at cskills.org/cutcarbon for information on training courses available, as well as updates on government legislation and industry news.

This year is set to be a big year for low-carbon construction, and it is vital that SMEs do not pass up the opportunity to benefit from lucrative new workstreams. The time to act is now.

Mark Farrar is chief executive of CITB-ConstructionSkills

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