Industry alliance says the number of apprentices entering the building engineering sector has returned to pre-pandemic levels, but are still not sufficient to address demand for lower carbon heat

Skills shortages continue to pose a significant challenge to aims to decarbonise UK buildings, an alliance of built environment trade bodies has warned.

Actuate UK, the cross-industry building engineering alliance, said that the industry needed “many more” trainees to enter the sector in order to address demand for lower carbon solutions. Strong investment in the HVAC industry’s training capabilities would also be needed to allow the sector to offer low carbon heat and more energy efficient buildings, the organisation added.

The comments have been made to mark the 15th National Apprenticeship Week that runs from 7 February to 13 February.

Actuate UK said that figures released to mark this year’s campaign found that the building engineering sector represented 42 per cent of the latest annual apprentice intake for the construction sector.

The alliance said that the figures showed that the number of apprentices entering the building engineering sector in England during 2022 had returned to levels last seen before the Covid-19 pandemic.  However, it warned that the industry still faced a shortage of the skills needed to create more energy efficient buildings with smarter heat systems.

The alliance added that ensuring a more diverse and larger workforce would help to ensure the UK’s building stock can transition to net zero by no later than 2050.

Helen Yeulet, training director with Actuate UK member organisation BESA, said that that announcement of a large number of recruits joining the building engineering sector was a welcome news for National Apprenticeship Week.

‘Future Skills’ pledge

She said, “But, as one of the fastest growing industries responding to climate change, we can’t be complacent. We need more investment in training across the sector to achieve the UK’s net zero targets. Industry and government must work together to overcome the skills shortage and deliver the much needed homes of the future”.

BESA itself said it was marking this year’s apprenticeship campaign with a call for employers in the sector to take on at least one apprentice this year.  This would be vital to ensure that the sector had the skills to meet future challenges facing the industry.

A particular concern identified by the organisations was the loss of experienced workers since the start of the pandemic that had exacerbated concerns about replacing an ageing workforce.

BESA said that its ‘Future Skills’ pledge was being launched to mark National Apprenticeship Week.

Companies or individuals signing up to the pledge are not required to take on an apprentice immediately. Instead, BESA said it was committed to offer support and advice for employees looking to train an apprentice with regards to funding options and recruitment.

BESA claimed that pledges from the industry would help it understand the broad needs of the sector to increase the number of apprentices being taken on.

The association cited recent figures from the Construction Products Association (CPA) that concluded that some 200,000 workers have left the construction industry since the start of the pandemic.  Over half of these individuals identified by the CPA were estimated to be between the ages of 45 and 55.

Ms Yeulet said, “An apprenticeship benefits the employer because the apprentice is learning about their business and specific requirements while gaining valuable on the job experience.”

“By the end of their apprenticeship, they will have the right skills for their chosen career and will already be contributing to their employer’s business growth.”


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