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Skills body fears that training gap will keep SMEs out of Green Deal

CITB-ConstructionSkills has warned that thousands of small and medium-sized construction firms are not adequately trained to take advantage of government efforts to reduce carbon.

The industry training body has called for the Energy Bill to recognise that sector staff need training to be able to carry out retrofitting work.

The group warned that time was “running out”. The Green Deal aims to start retrofitting 14 million homes and buildings with energy-saving measures from 2012.

The Green Deal is the centrepiece of the Energy Bill, which was published in December. Under the scheme, households take out loans to make energy efficiency improvements and pay back the money through a charge on their energy bills.

The training body said thousands of SMEs had staff who do not possess the right skills to take advantage of the energy-saving measures.

In his Low Carbon Construction report last year, the government’s chief construction adviser Paul Morrell said: “Delivery of a low-carbon built environment will make demands on the industry that it is currently under-equipped to meet.

“It will need new skills and an increased quantity of existing skills from conceptual thinking to operation and use, in all layers of the supply chain.”

Carbon emissions from the construction and built environment sector account for almost half of the UK’s current emissions.

However, research for CITB-ConstructionSkills highlighted that three in 10 builders who will be expected to install products through the Green Deal from 2012 still have a “poor understanding” of the low-carbon agenda.

FMB director of external affairs Brian Berry insisted that the industry was taking the low-carbon issue seriously.

He said many within the sector had expected the government to reduce VAT on energy-efficient buildings already and that the Green Deal needs to be underpinned with a range of fiscal incentives.

A spokesman for CITB-ConstructionSkills said there was a need for the government to assess the issue of proper accreditation of builders under the scheme to ensure the public are employing fully trained professionals.