Trainer training, professional qualifications, user awareness and compliance with quality standards are key aspects for the 2020 horizon, according to experts who participated in the informative seminar on «The importance of training of trainers in ‘green’ skills for the construction sector», organized by Confederación Nacional de la Construcción (CNC), with the collaboration of Fundación Laboral de la Construcción, on Thursday May 10th, attended by about twenty representatives of institutions and companies from the construction industry and the field of training.
Mª Ángeles Asenjo, director of the International Department of CNC, welcomed the audience and introduced Javier González, head of International Projects at Fundación Laboral, who spoke of «Strategic alliances for the sector competences and the design of transnational training plans for the construction industry».
González described the legal, economic and social context in which we currently find ourselves, a framework in which the European Union (EU) has placed its focus on energy efficiency, with large investments: “If we have ‘Pepe Gotera y Otilio’ [famous characters from ‘Chapuzas a domicilio’ by Mortadelo and Filemón, a famous Spanish comic], we are not going to be competitive, we have to have good professionals, qualified and prepared to deal with the energy performance of buildings, which is key to European objectives”.
Deficiencies to be filled and barriers to be overcome
In this way, he reminded that the Strategy for a sustainable competitiveness of the construction sector and its companies COM (2012) 433 points to a series of deficiencies that need to be covered, such as: lack of skilled workers, needs for new specific skills not contemplated in the Vocational Education and Training system, need for qualification due to the transition to a low-carbon economy and to beef up the human capital of the construction industry, among others.
To this purpose, the sector must work on key aspects to overcome these barriers and anticipate the skills needs of companies, attract interns to construction, carry out initiatives in energy efficiency (EE), promote ICT skills and continue the Build-up Skills experiences of participating European countries.
As Javier González indicated, the 40% of companies in Europe have problems finding professionals with the skills they need to grow and innovate”. In relation to the construction industry, the representative of the Foundation explained the initiatives being promoted by the European Commission. On the one hand, the collaboration of the Sectorial Competence Councils and the Sectorial Skills Alliances (SSA), as well as a strategic European approach to the sector, called Blueprint, which will start to be developed in the coming months. On the other hand, the promotion of qualifications at European level, for which the European Commission encourages Member States to adapt qualifications and training programmes to the new demands of the market and to provide innovative energy models and new Vocational Training programmes focused on climate and the energy efficiency.
Improving training and specialization
Beatriz Oliete, International Projects Technician at the Construction Labour and head of the Bus. Trainers project, presented the results achieved in this initiative so far and the objectives and phases that remain to be achieved.
Two of the fundamental goals pursued by Bus. Trainers are: to provide a platform to support the continuous learning of the teaching community and to promote collaboration between experts; also aims to develop a European sectorial qualification, ‘Eco-trainer in the construction sector’, recognized in the five participating countries with principles of EQF, ECVET, and EQAVET.
In addition, the researcher announced the first results of the project: the «Report on the ‘green’ skills gap of VET trainers in the construction industry», a «Final ‘green’ skills map and perimeter» and the qualification ‘Eco-Trainer in the construction industry’, which will be launched in the second half of 2019.
José Antonio Ferrer, head of the Research Group on Energy Analysis in Urban Environments of the Research Unit on Energy Efficiency in Building of Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales y Tecnológicas (Ciemat), belonging to Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness, through the Secretary of State for Research, Development and Innovation, focused on «Training needs derived from European and Spanish regulations in relation to energy efficiency in buildings».
Users, as managers of self-consumption
Ferrer highlighted that although the training of technicians is essential, the training of users is essential, for the “determined support for self-consumption” that marks the European directive on renewable energy (EERR), because “citizens become managers of their energy consumption”. Fuel suppliers, on the other hand, have the obligation to incorporate EERR in an annual 1% until 2030 and to train and inform users, among other issues. The Ciemat representative affirmed that “more than 50% of the objective of increasing energy efficiency and renewable energies will come from building” and, according to the expert, it can be achieved without doing big measures, simply “doing good construction”.
José Antonio Ferrer stressed the essential role played by energy auditors and energy management systems, as well as the qualification of auditors and the need to increase this group. “It is not that we do not have this body of technicians in Spain, but instead they are not sufficient to deal with this type of audits that must be carried out”. He also reminded that from 2020 onwards, all the buildings that are built will have almost zero energy consumption (ECCN) and that public bodies must take exemplary action in the renovation of buildings. European regulations are beginning to leave building like a stand-alone element and begin to adopt the global concept of smart cities.
And how can this change be faced?
For José Antonio Tenorio, head scientist at Instituto de Ciencias de la Construcción Eduardo Torroja (IETCC), belonging to Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), it is a matter of looking for added value in professional skills, changing speed, taking advantage of the fact that Spain is the country of the sun to achieve sustainability and, in conclusion, through quality”.
In his speech about the «Promotion of competences in energy efficiency (EE) and renewable energy systems (RES) in Vocational Training», Tenorio commented that building has extensive technological advances, as in the case of BIM, which industry must apply to its operation and update knowledge, since technology evolves day by day. However, he said that value must be given to the awareness and updating of knowledge of trainers, professionals and companies to “build well”: “Training needs and training strategies in building and, above all, in energy rehabilitation of buildings, are clear to promote the EE and RES and to meet the objectives set by the European Union. And we cannot forget that the key is the importance of proper execution with high standards of quality and performance of the completed work”.
In addition, the representative of the IETCC-CSIC pointed out that the EE and the rehabilitation of the building stock is a job opportunity and concluded by stating “projects such as Build up Skills and Bus. Trainers demonstrate their validity in providing the analysis and the means to make it possible”.
Searching for balance between speeds
Begoña Leyva, head of the Environment department of the CNC, gave some final notes, by way of conclusion, with a very clear metaphorical explanation: “Today it has become clear that, in the areas of energy efficiency and renewable energies in the construction industry, each agent involved is going at a totally different speed: European regulations go at rocket speed, Spanish legislation still goes by bicycle, the vast majority of the sector goes at a snail’s pace and users are like fish swimming in a sea of information, largely of which, not even understand”. In relation to the EU, Leyva stressed what José Antonio Ferrer said about the new directives put the emphasis on extending the area of action of buildings as separate units to districts (districts with almost no energy consumption) and to consider buildings not only as consumers of energy, but also as generators.
Regarding Spanish legislation, the representative of the NCC said that “we have not yet finished transposing all aspects of the current Energy Efficiency Directives and we have to start thinking about the transposition of those that are currently in the pipeline. On the other hand, he agreed with José Antonio Tenorio that “the different types of ecological logos (voluntary and obligatory) that exist are not valued and the validity of the energy certificates of buildings is not verified”. When referring to the construction industry, Begoña Leyva explained that in the sector the terms of energy efficiency, BIM, sustainable construction, etc. are familiar, but it is still being built in a traditional way and it is far away the real and effective incorporation of all these aspects in the day to day. In fact, he took up the report on the gaps of trainers in the construction sector carried out by the consortium of Bus. Trainers.
And the users, as determining actors in this process, “who only attend to the variables of price and appearance, and not to the rest of the services, such as quality or energy efficiency,” said Leyva. In the middle of these actors, they are trying to balance the different speeds, at least in their field of action, which is where we have the capacity to influence. Proof of this is the Bus. Trainers project, which seeks to improve EE skills and EERR systems for trainers in the construction industry, in order to get better trained (and informed) workers, who will facilitate the incorporation of these aspects in companies that already work on it, but do not have qualified workers, and will carry those that do not yet incorporate these issues,” summarized Begoña Leyva.
Finally, she added: “We must not forget that the workers in the sector are also users, who will be able to understand and value the information provided on the labels and will pay attention to other types of parameters when acquiring goods”. This professional meeting opened a debate with very valuable contributions from the audience, about the training of trainers, the profile of the trainer and the recognition of the qualification ‘Eco-trainer of the construction sector’, which generated great interest.