April 2023 /
The circular transition is both necessary and complex; it must align with the energy and digital transitions to have the most impact within the construction sector. It is clear that we need to act now to prevent further damage to the natural environment. What are the next steps we must take in order to reach a more sustainable future? In this article we focus on the skills approach that we developed in project Bus-GoCircular.
Europe is approaching severe skills gaps
The aim of project Bus-GoCircular is to address and overcome the challenges faced when implementing real change through equipping a green energy skilled workforce. Working collaboratively and connecting with partners is our goal, and by upskilling both demand and supply sides of the value chain, we believe real change is afoot. As an industry pilot example, BUS-GoCircular has mapped the skills gaps related to MGRFIE (Multi-Functional Green Roofs Facades and Interior Elements). This skills mapping process is suitable to map skill gaps for any technical and process element within the construction value chain.
Both core and enabling elements need attention
The BUS-GoCircular skills mapping is based on 8 key elements (Key Elements framework by Circle Economy). We choose to work with the Key Elements Framework as it ensures that we address the complexity of circularity and the challenges associated with implementing circular practices within the construction industry. The three core elements are Prioritise Regenerative Resources, Stretch the Lifespan and Use Waste as a Resource. These elements directly handle products or material flows; meaning they are vital to the success of circular economy practices. The enabling elements are Rethink the Business model, Design for the Future, Collaborate to Create Joint Value, Incorporate Digital Technology and Strengthen and Advance Knowledge. They support the core elements and ensure that any obstacles or barriers are removed. It is vital that all of these elements are considered. Without addressing each of these elements, implementation and further progress would be impossible.Some of the skills we identified, based on the Key Elements framework, are Design/Build for Reuse and Apply material passports. A full list of all 52 skills can be found here.
No one is ready yet
In BUS-GoCircular we have identified 38 professions and 52 skills relating to circular economy. These include many existing professions and several new and emerging professions. Some of these new professions include, Green Public Procurers (GPP), Demolition or Deconstruction Auditor, Green Roofer and Repair and Maintenance Operatives. No single profession is already fully prepared for what’s necessary to achieve a more sustainable future. While there are skills gaps present in these new and emerging professions it is also important to note a widening skills gap in existing professions such as Architects, Engineers and many onsite construction workers which also must be bridged.
However, there are big differences per country and per profession
We have found through our research that there are skills gaps existing throughout the entire construction sector. All countries and professions must bridge the growing skills gaps in the coming months and years. We have discovered that while the gaps may vary, the quality of the education that is needed to close these gaps is of vital importance and it is necessary that this education is aimed at the industry as a whole. Meaning that not all members of every team must become experts in every skill required to reach a fully circular economy, but rather, every team must contain experts in every skill to achieve this goal.
As an industry pilot example, we have applied the framework to the sub sector of MGRFIE, showing its replicability and adaptability. This work showed that while all professions indicate gaps across many skills. We identified, Building Owner/Operator, Environmental Engineer, Repair and Maintenance Operative, Insulation installer, Plasterer/Facade worker, Stone mason, Bricklayer and Green Roofer as having the biggest gaps existing currently. For example, we have identified several gaps in skills relating to repair and maintenance operatives, these skills gaps include: applying material passports, drone use, BIM/Digital technology and MGRFIE. Our findings indicated that repair and maintenance operatives require the most upskilling and training in these areas. Across Europe these gaps must be bridged to achieve a circular economy. A full list of these skills and skills gaps can be found here.
Under BUS-GoCircular, a Pan European consortium has developed a promising path to help close the gaps
In Bus-GoCircular, we have developed a qualification framework that provides a solid and practical base for the development of new training materials for real world application within the construction sector. The approach our framework utilises task-based qualification, therefore facilitates professionals in pinpointing what tasks and subtasks are most applicable and necessary to them, allowing them to easily identify what outcomes should be achieved through training. This provides a useful foundation to draw upon when developing training materials with their industry .
Validated by stakeholders
Our approach was validated by a wide group of European professionals. We set up national and European External Advisory Boards (EAB’s) to benchmark and add value to our approach, with backgrounds in industry, government and education among others. Thus, we have been able to validate our process, content and results. We will continue to work with these stakeholders in our continuing efforts to develop training materials and strengthen the training infrastructures of the design and construction industry of Europe.
Build Up Skills App
The information gained throughout this process is currently being added to the Build Up Skills App, this will allow users to input their skills levels and discover their own skills gap and further direct them towards training material which will allow them to easily bridge this gap.
Work with us to implement our approach into training options programmes for the design and construction industry
Make it fit your field
Working together, we can use the skills gap analysis and qualifications framework to zoom in on your specific industry needs. Our project provides the groundwork to further develop training infrastructure for your industry. However, to fully reap the benefits of this opportunity, we need your help.
We are now designing and implementing a train-the-trainer programme on both a European and national level throughout 2023. These will provide ample opportunities to dive into the Circular Economy qualification framework and start applying it to the industry to begin to close the skills gaps.
We are inviting professionals interested in circular skills development to get engaged with our project. Check our website here for the latest updates and findings. You can also sign up for our bi-annual newsletter here. These are also the channels where you will be notified of future train-the-trainer dates and programmes.
To discuss opportunities of deploying the framework to your specific industry, please reach out via our website!
Authors: Sybren Steensma (Building Changes) and Martin Breen (TUS University)