The recruitment drive to enlist individuals sufficiently skilled to deliver net zero has kicked up a gear with the creation of the Skills for a Sustainable Skyline Taskforce.

This Taskforce comes in response to a survey of industry professionals by the City of London Corporation that found 91% of respondents said the commercial built environment sector lacks sufficient skilled workers to achieve net zero targets.

The built environment has a leading role in helping to achieve the UK’s net zero target by 2050 – being responsible for around a quarter of emissions in the UK. While construction has long been a large contributor to carbon emissions (both embodied and operating), there are impressive strides being made in this area with innovative procurement methods such as modern methods of construction (MMC), and more construction products that can reduce the use of carbon throughout the lifecycle of a development (which we have previously considered here). However, a project is only as good as the people involved in it and the Taskforce has identified that there are skill gaps and labour shortages in the construction, retrofit, and maintenance of low-carbon commercial buildings.

The Taskforce is focused on London specifically and is one of a number of initiatives which aim to achieve net zero in the UK by 2050. The Construction Leadership Council recently consulted on PAS 2080 – a new standard for Carbon Management in Buildings and Infrastructure. PAS 2080 has a number of targets aimed at aligning the built environment with the transition to a net zero carbon economy by 2050, including reinforcing the importance of carbon reduction across the life cycle of a building.

The skills required to understand and implement the various standards and requirements to achieve net zero are not yet widely available in the UK. The Taskforce's general suggestion for delivering an industry engagement plan to assist with upskilling for net zero in London is to invest in the current work force, as well as attracting new candidates who are under-represented in the sector (namely women, Black, Asian, and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQI+ community.

According to the Construction Industry Training Board's (CITB) latest report, over a quarter of a million extra construction workers may be needed by 2026 to support the UK's industry growth, a figure set to increase with the focus on net zero by 2050. The industry therefore needs to significantly invest in its current and future workforce in order to ensure a reliable pipeline of qualified personnel. Recruiting the multitudes needed in this regard requires the industry to re-think the archetypal construction worker or professional and ensure their own organisations are set up to attract, nurture, and cultivate a diverse skill base.