Industry and government must join forces to ensure the workforce has the skills to deliver the infrastructure required for net zero, says a new report published by the ECITB.
With the government committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, the UK must deploy a range of technologies, including carbon capture and hydrogen, to decarbonise the industrial and energy sectors.
As the sector responsible for designing, installing and maintaining industrial plant and infrastructure, the engineering construction industry will play a critical role in hitting climate change targets.
The ECITB commissioned Element Energy to identify the implications of decarbonisation for the industry. The report identifies the potential for over £40 billion in revenues for the engineering construction industry by 2050, alongside a number of critical challenges that must be met to make the switch to low carbon technologies.
The research found that while UK PLC has many of the skills needed to deploy these technologies, there are notable gaps in areas such as C02 pipeline monitoring, production of synthetic fuels and repurposing of salt caverns for hydrogen shortage. In addition, uncertainties lie in the number of workers required and the timeframe for their deployment, which could lead to skills shortages.
Chris Claydon, ECITB chief executive, said, “Engineering construction is a dynamic industry and the widespread adoption of renewable energy technologies in recent years shows industry can successfully adapt to transform big challenges into great opportunities.
“If we are to meet our climate change targets, we need a vibrant and skilled contracting industry to successfully deliver the technologies and infrastructure required to decarbonise industrial sites and processes. The ECITB is embarking on a programme of work, on behalf of the industry, to identify and address the skills challenges posed by the net zero transition, so that we deliver a workforce equipped to tackle this most pressing of challenges.”
Emrah Durusut, associate director at Element Energy, added, “The UK’s net zero target requires deep decarbonisation of six industrial clusters; carbon intensive hotspots located at Merseyside, Teesside, Humberside, Grangemouth, South Wales and Southampton. The government has committed hundreds of millions of pounds towards deploying technologies like carbon capture and storage, and low-carbon hydrogen production in industrial clusters over the next few years. The engineering construction industry’s skills and services are already needed to progress multi-billion projects across all industrial clusters.”
Under the government’s plans, at least one industrial cluster must decarbonise fully by 2040, with the remaining five becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
The report suggests that the ECITB and government can work with the engineering construction industry to minimise the disruption caused by this shift and harness the opportunities of net zero by:
- Identifying and closing skills gaps: we must harness the existing expertise of the engineering construction workforce, many of whom have the necessary skills, and repurpose these skills to tackle the net zero challenge.
- Minimising skills shortages: ECI companies must embrace collaboration, systems thinking and digitalisation to ensure the workforce is adequately prepared to deliver decarbonisation projects. We must also attract a new workforce by making engineering careers more appealing – highlighting how the industry is central to tackling climate change is a huge opportunity to attracting the next generation of talent.
- Leveraging policy and innovation: we must link education and industry more closely at regional level, so government policy and educators reflect local skills needs. This is critical to the success of the industrial clusters, which will require a pipeline of skilled workers in their regions to achieve their decarbonisation milestones.
To read the report, click here.