From education to employment

Skills and training critical to meet net-zero target for carbon emissions by 2050

Chris Claydon, ECITB Chief Executive

Industry and Government must join forces to ensure the workforce has the #skills to deliver the infrastructure required for #NetZero according to a new report published by @ECITB_Skills 

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 our climate change targets.

The ECITB commissioned Element Energy to identify the implications of decarbonisation for the industry.  The report, “Towards Net Zero: The Implications of the Transition to Net Zero for the Engineering Construction Industry” identifies the potential for over £40bn 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 finds 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, said:

“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.

A launch event was held at the RSA in London on 4 March, featuring an expert panel including:

  • Professor Joe Howe, Executive Director and Professor of the Thornton Energy Institute at the University of Chester
  • Jon Saltmarsh, Deputy Director, Engineering and Research at the Science and Innovation for Climate and Energy Directorate, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
  • Emrah Durusut, Associate Director and Head of Industrial Decarbonisation and CCUS at Element Energy
  • Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer, Associate Principal and Director of the Research Centre for Carbon Solutions at Heriot-Watt University
  • Bryony Livesey, UK Research & Innovation Director, Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

In June 2019, the UK became the first major country to legislate for a net-zero target for carbon emissions by 2050.

Government needs to shape policies and regulations to create a market environment that increases consumer and business demand for low-carbon solutions and encourages sustainable private sector investment decisions. Policies across all areas of government interact to influence the transition of the whole economy towards net zero.

In a letter to the Prime Minister sent in January 2020, “Achieving net zero carbon emissions through a whole systems approach” the Council for Science and Technology (CST) explores how a systems approach might be used to inform government thinking and proposes 9 recommendations focused on 3 areas:

  • Developing the analytical capability, flow of information, and reporting needed to inform decisions
  • Maximising the contribution of technology, mobilise financial systems and galvanise international collaboration
  • Strengthening the institutions, governance frameworks and leadership structures needed across central government to galvanise action to achieve net-zero

About the Engineering Construction Industry:

Engineering construction is a specialised industry that underpins the delivery, maintenance and decommissioning of the UK’s critical infrastructure. It operates across the oil and gas, nuclear and renewables sectors, as well as major process industries, such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food processing, water and waste treatment.
The engineering construction industry makes up more than one-fifth of the total UK economy and supports the nation’s critical infrastructure.  According to a report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, around 190,000 jobs are directly supported by engineering construction. The study suggests that the wider economy benefits to the tune of almost three quarters of a million jobs and £325 billion in annual turnover.
About the ECITB:
The Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) is an arm’s-length government body that helps to drive productivity in the engineering construction industry by supporting employers to train and upskill their workforce to industry standards. A non-departmental public body (NDPB) sponsored by the Department for Education, the ECITB works with employers and government to attract, develop and qualify personnel across a wide range of craft, technical and managerial disciplines. In 2018, the ECITB invested around £25m in training and skills programmes on behalf of the industry.
ECITB regional teams work closely with companies to identify and develop the skills their workforce need.  The organisation also develops qualifications, training standards and technical tests and license training programmes delivered by a network of quality assured training providers and centres.
About Element Energy:
Element Energy is a strategic energy consultancy, specialising in the intelligent analysis of low carbon energy. The team of over 60 specialists provides consultancy services across a wide range of sectors, including the built environment, carbon capture and storage, industrial decarbonisation, smart electricity and gas networks, energy storage, renewable energy systems and low carbon transport. Element Energy provides insights on both technical and strategic issues, believing that the technical and engineering understanding of the real-world challenges support the strategic work.

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