The building engineering sector will play a key role in addressing climate change, according to a former president of the Confederation of British Industry.
Paul Drechsler, speaking at the annual Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) president’s lunch, said the industry’s leaders needed to be more vocal about their achievements and promote the role of building services in supporting human health and wellbeing.
But he added that it would need to compete harder for talent to address its skills challenges.
“It is not well understood how you can influence the [climate change] agenda,” said Drechsler. “You are in competition for talent with a lot of other major sectors, so you need to stand up and speak proudly about what you are doing.”
Drechsler, chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce and a former chairman and CEO of Wates Group, said the industry needed to improve its diversity to make talented people feel welcome.
He also told the sector to keep pushing for changes to the VAT regime for building refurbishments that would help to reduce carbon emissions from existing buildings.
BESA president Neil Brackenridge also urged the industry to give young engineers more opportunities to lead projects, and said that the climate crisis was an opportunity to showcase the sector’s career opportunities.
However, he added that a lack of technical competence in some areas was the sector’s ‘Achilles heel’, and better collaboration between contractors, manufacturers, colleges, and schools was needed.
“For too long, we have seen young people coming out of the education process with the wrong skills,” said Brackenridge. “BESA is involved in a major piece of work to update apprenticeships and other forms of technical training. This will make sure we are equipping the next generation with the skills employers need to push forward the net zero and quality building agenda.”
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