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Driving Towards Near Zero Energy Buildings

Fifty experts from across the EU met in Brussels on the 12th and 13th of November to share progress in relation to training building construction workers on sustainable building and renewable energy.  The Irish QualiBuild project was represented by Seamus Hoyne from Limerick Institute of Technology and Tim O’Leary from Dublin Institute of Technology.  On the 12th the focus of the meeting was on measuring progress on the implementation of training programmes for construction workers.  Twelve countries are actively implementing training programmes with another 10 due to start next year.

Reflecting on the event Seamus Hoyne noted “Common challenges are now being addressed by many of the countries.  Providing training which is accessible to currently employed construction workers and craftspeople is a major challenge.  Research shows that they won’t travel more than 50km for training so we need to develop training which is mobile, focused and of reasonably short duration.  Creating environments in which construction companies make workers available for training is also challenging – employers are often unwilling or unable to release workers for training.  A lot of innovation is being considered including using Social Media, Site Based Training, Virtual Environments so next year will be an important step in the development of training content.  Also, Training of Trainers is now a major issue – there is a significant knowledge gap within the training community on Near Zero Energy Buildings (both new and retrofit).  Many countries are looking at this, including Ireland, and we are hoping to change experiences and approaches so we can build training capacity across the EU”.

A common theme also emerged in relation to how the workers can gain recognition for the effort they invest in training.  Accreditation of training programmes, Recognition of Prior Learning and development of registration systems which may include a workers card system were also discussed.  It is hoped to have a working group including Ireland, UK and a number of Scandinavian countries who share many common approaches in this area, to allow for sharing of experience and systems development.

On the 13th QualiBuild was presented at the EPBD Concerted Action Stakeholders Group, along with the Netherlands Build Up Skills project.  There was a lively and engaging debate around issues such as procurement of skilled workers, training accessibility, cross-craft training and other issues.  A clear conclusion from both days is that developing a skilled and knowledgeable workforce will be a vital component in achieving energy targets in Ireland and Europe as a whole.  The event re-enforced the fact that the QualiBuild project is in line with EU Best Practice in this area but that many challenges remain if the full vision of the Irish Build Up Skills Roadmap is to be achieved.

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