Mace and Willmott Dixon chiefs to sit on London construction skills taskforce

The City of London Corporation has established a new Skills for a Sustainable Skyline Taskforce, which will look at defining and addressing skills gaps around the construction, retrofit and maintenance of low-carbon commercial buildings in Central London boroughs.

Among those chosen to sit on the taskforce are Mace chief of staff Hannah Vickers and Willmott Dixon chief sustainability officer Julia Barrett. CITB chief executive Tim Balcon, JLL head of sustainability Emma Hoskyn and Built by Us founder Danna Walker are also named on the 15-strong taskforce (see full list below).

The taskforce will run for three years and will be chaired by Chris Hayward, deputy chairman of the City of London Corporation’s policy and resources committee. City Property Association (CPA) chief executive Charles Begley will serve as deputy chair.

It comes in response to the findings of a poll of more than 100 industry professionals, which revealed:

  • 91 per cent said the commercial, built environment sector lacks sufficient skilled workers to achieve net-zero targets;
  • 80 per cent believed a lack of workplace diversity is an issue for the sector; and
  • 87 per cent agreed there is a growing ‘green skills’ gap in the commercial built environment.

The taskforce will back the aims of the City of London Corporation’s radical Climate Action Strategy, which commits to net-zero carbon emissions across its operations by 2027, and also support the achievement of net zero for the Square Mile by 2040.

Hayward said: “Central London urgently needs a larger, skilled workforce to decarbonise its commercial buildings and this taskforce will lead the way in finding solutions to fill this skills gap.

“We must work at pace to attract new talent, as well as upskill and reskill the existing workforce, as we look to meet our ambitious climate action goals.

“The areas which we have identified as having the greatest scope for improvement are the full development lifecycle, including design, retrofit, construction and maintenance.”

Begley said: “Advances in technology and innovation are opening up a wider range of job opportunities within the built environment, with the drive towards greater sustainability being embedded, from financing to fit-out, as well as the long-term operation of a building. However, there is evidence of a growing skills gap, which threatens to impede progress in achieving London’s net-zero carbon targets.

“We need to understand the barriers in attracting the diverse workforce the industry requires, and find solutions to help promote the reskilling and upskilling of existing workers, whilst raising career awareness amongst Londoners, particularly those from underrepresented demographic backgrounds.”

Data published by the London Assembly Economy Committee last month showed that 18 per cent fewer people began construction apprenticeships in the capital in 2020/21 than in 2017/18.

Last summer, the CITB found an extra 216,800 construction workers would be needed by 2025 to meet demand.

But figures released by the Office for National Statistics last month showed the number of self-employed workers in construction hit its lowest level for 18 years in 2021.

Skills for a Sustainable Skyline Taskforce members

  • Bola Abisogun founder & chairman, DiverseCity Surveyors
  • Tim Balcon, chief executive officer, Construction Industry Training Board
  • Julia Barrett, chief sustainability officer, Willmott Dixon
  • David Frise, group chief executive officer, Building & Engineering Services Association (BESA), and member of executive group, Actuate UK
  • Martin Gettings, vice-president – portfolio management, real estate, Brookfield
  • Alison Gowman, trustee, Trust for London
  • Emma Hoskyn, UK head of sustainability, JLL
  • Stuart Lipton, co-founder and partner, Lipton Rogers Developments
  • Carol Lynch, chief executive, Construction Youth Trust
  • Iain McIlwee, chief executive officer, Finishes and Interiors Sector (FIS)
  • Fiona Morey, pro vice-chancellor (compulsory and further education), London South Bank University
  • Benjamin O’Connor, director, New London Architecture
  • Stephen Pomeroy, founder and chief executive, BECG
  • Hannah Vickers, chief of staff, Mace
  • Danna Walker, founder, Built By Us
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