Building pathways into green careers could do much to attract much-needed new workers into the sector, says CITB chief Sarah Beale

When most people think of construction, they probably imagine bricklayers building new homes, or plant operators creating the infrastructure we need for the country to prosper. They might think of the managers looking after site safety, or high-tech professionals working with BIM. It’s fair to say that most people wouldn’t currently think of construction as an energy-efficient sector creating green jobs such as retrofitting.

Sarah beale

However, this is the ambition set out by the Green Jobs Taskforce in its set of 15 recommendations to government.

Recommendations include:

  • Publishing a detailed net zero strategy and using policy to promote green jobs, skills and competitive supply chains
  • Industry, the education sector and the UK government working together to put in place green careers advice and pathways into jobs.

To implement these recommendations – and to reach the government’s legally mandated target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 – will take all of us working together with a common purpose.

From a skills perspective, that means colleges, employers, federations, government and the Construction Leadership Council all thinking green, so that the skills, knowledge and experience we need are embedded throughout our sector.

Construction needs an extra 350,000 roles to keep pace with net zero targets, mostly focused on improving current housing stock

CITB, as the training board for construction, clearly has a role to play. We kicked this off last year with our research report which showed that construction needs the equivalent of an extra 350,000 roles to keep pace with net zero targets, mostly focused on improving heating and insulation in the current housing stock.

The industry is already reporting how difficult it is to recruit skilled workers at the moment, so the challenge of increasing our industry’s output capacity by around 13% might seem an Olympian challenge.

One area where we can make a real difference is building pathways into green careers. We know that Generation Z want jobs that chime with their values, which means thinking about sustainability as well as job satisfaction and earning a good salary.

CITB already has strong interventions in place. These include showing how construction is becoming much greener and highlighting the careers to help drive that change on the Go Construct website, the industry’s main information source for potential new entrants.

Beyond this we will inspire the next generation to get involved through Go Construct’s STEM ambassadors, who can help raise awareness in schools and colleges about the positive role construction can play in pushing forward the green agenda.

We need to ensure the pathways into the built environment sector, including traineeships, T-levels and apprenticeships, support a diverse, inclusive and green workforce

We are also aiming to facilitate both taster and on-site experiences to help people transition into the industry. And we will be working with employers to advertise these opportunities openly, as well as apprenticeship and graduate openings through the Talentview portal, part of the Construction Talent Retention (CTRS) system.

Construction employers can also use the free-to-access CTRS to advertise jobs, for those already in the sector and career changers. In each of these interventions we can help to improve knowledge, behaviours and attitudes, as well as the diversity of our sector, which will drive change and make it permanent.

We need to ensure that the pathways into the built environment sector, including traineeships, T-levels and apprenticeships, support a diverse, inclusive and green workforce. This is because we will not get the skilled people for new green jobs without the right qualifications and standards. CITB is working with government to ensure standards and qualifications are net zero-ready.

That doesn’t just involve jobs that are obviously green, such as retrofit co-ordinators. It also includes traditional trades such as carpentry or bricklaying. People will need to have a broader set of green skills, knowledge, and behaviours – adopting new ways of working and technologies and being effectively engaged to understand the vital role they will play in meeting the biggest challenge our society now faces.

CITB will help create the skills needed to achieve net zero, enabling employers to thrive in the years and decades to come. We all need to play our part, and I believe our sector will rise to the challenge.

  • The CLC has also published its Construct Zero performance framework, which provides clear targets for construction to reach Net Zero carbon emission.

Sarah Beale is chief executive of CITB and a member of the government’s Green Jobs Taskforce