Construction megaproject

ECITB pledges £87m for new engineering skills strategy

Image credit: Direk Takmatcha/Dreamstime

The Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) has launched a new £87m strategy to help the UK reach net zero and achieve domestic energy security.

The ECITB's strategy aims to support growth in the engineering construction industry by tackling the problem of labour shortages and skills gaps over the next three years.

According to the organisation's forecasts, 25,000 additional workers are needed for major projects, including those related to net zero, by 2026. The situation is expected to place employers in direct competition for labour needed to fulfil £650bn of infrastructure projects in the wider UK economy.

The UK government’s Energy Security Strategy - which aims to significantly increase. the country's energy generating capabilities - has put greater pressure on the industry to find the talent required to meet those goals. 

Published by the employer-led Board of the ECITB, the new strategy sets out a three-year plan, from 2023-25, to help bring talented new entrants with foundation skills into the industry as well as support ongoing training and the reskilling of workers moving from other sectors.

“The engineering construction industry and its supply chain companies design, deliver and decommission many of England, Scotland and Wales’s critical infrastructure projects, and therefore is central to the nation’s energy security and energy transition ambitions," said Chris Claydon, chief executive of the ECITB. 

“The ECITB’s new strategy is designed to help address the main workforce challenges facing this critical industry over the next three years. We have prioritised support for new entrants and new pathways to industry in anticipation of the forecast labour shortages and will fund training to bridge skills gaps through support for new training around net zero projects, including digital skills."

Building on measures enacted by the ECITB to secure skills during the pandemic, the strategy focuses on helping to address industry recruitment and retention challenges, as employers look to expand the workforce to deliver a growing number of projects on the horizon.

The ECITB has pledged to allocate £73m towards training grants over the next strategy period. More than half (52 per cent) will fund ongoing training, upskilling and reskilling, while the remaining 48 per cent will support new entrants to start careers in industry via a variety of different pathways.

Under the new strategy, the ECITB is expected to fund a wide range of projects, including nuclear new-build and decommissioning, renewables, oil and gas, water treatment, and food and drink. They will also include hydrogen and carbon-capture projects linked to the decarbonisation of the industrial clusters, which are at the heart of the UK’s net zero plans.

“In developing the strategy, the ECITB has listened closely to employers, training providers, government representatives and other key stakeholders," Claydon said. "We aim to deliver what industry has said it needs – a focus on attracting and developing new talent and the provision of high-quality training across Britain."

In 2021, the UK government published a long-awaited "leading" strategy for the country to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Although the strategy was meant to "frame the UK as the leader in a green revolution," last August the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) warned that rocketing energy prices could stifle investment in the measures needed to achieve this goal. 

The skills shortage is an additional challenge on the road to net zero. According to a report by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), at least 78 per cent of firms in the construction, production and manufacturing, and logistics sectors reported having “significant issues” recruiting new staff, as of August 2022. 

The construction sector is facing the most severe recruitment challenges, with 83 per cent reporting difficulties. This is closely followed by production and manufacturing on 79 per cent, logistics on 79 per cent and hospitality on 78 per cent.

Last year, a report found that the UK tech sector, which has been growing rapidly in recent years, is now under serious threat due to massive skills shortages.

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