No climate transformation without sufficient skilled workers

The associations in the construction finishing and building technology skilled trades call for action on the part of policymakers. They suggest five measures in a joint declaration.

Despite the fact that climate change has been less prominent in the media due to the war in Ukraine and also during the coronavirus pandemic, climate protection remains a defining theme. The transition of the economy and society to climate neutrality is one of the key challenges for the future. Because Germany is falling behind with its climate protection targets, the federal government wants to significantly increase its involvement in this area. The skilled trades regard themselves as a key partner in the implementation of relevant measures.

However, the acute shortage of skilled workers and the workload in the skilled trades pose a threat to a successful climate and energy transformation. This is the warning now being issued by the German Sanitation, Heating and Air Conditioning Association (ZVSHK), the Central Association of German Electrical and Information Technology Trades (ZVEH), the German Metal Association "Bundesverband Metall", the "Bundesinnungsverband des Tischler- und Schreinerhandwerk" (Federal Guild of Carpenters and Joiners) and IG Metall. "We support the federal government's climate targets however we are also saying this will not work without sufficient skilled workers in those skilled trades relevant to the climate," explains Michael Hilpert, President of the ZVSHK.

2020 and 2021 targets significantly missed

Right now, there's a shortage of around 190,000 skilled workers in energy-related building renovation. This is hugely significant in terms of achieving the climate protection targets. The associations also explain how demand will continue to increase. The lack of renovation of building shells and outdated energy technology mean such buildings are responsible for up to one third of greenhouse gases emitted in Germany.

On the path to the targeted climate neutrality in 2045, the federal government has fallen significantly short of climate targets in the building sector both in 2020 and in 2021. Rapid implementation of the planned acceleration of building renovations is now required. "In particular this concerns stipulating the energy efficiency targets in law, decarbonisation of heating grids, revision of the building energy law and sound structuring of the funding framework," explain the organisations.

Safeguarding the effectiveness of businesses

The full statement from the associations is available here: However, that alone is not sufficient. The implementation must also consider aspects of social sustainability and combine opportunities in terms of employment policy with attractive working conditions. The effectiveness and innovative power of companies also need to be safeguarded. The growing shortage of skilled workers represents a serious threat to this. For this reason, the associations in the construction, finishing and building technology skilled trades as well as IG Metall are calling for immediate support from policymakers so that sufficient skilled workers come into the skilled trades.

In a joint declaration entitled "Fachkräftegewinnung ist der Schlüssel zur Erreichung der Klimaschutzziele" (Attracting skilled workers is key to achieving the climate protection targets), they specify five measures which policymakers need to take in order to achieve the transformation both in terms of climate transformation and skilled workers (see box). "The skilled worker shortage in the skilled trades is critical right now," says Ralf Kutzner, executive board member of IG Metall. "Only with a huge training and qualification campaign and with extensive collective bargaining coverage can the energy transformation be achieved in the building sector."

Prioritising skilled worker recruitment

Recruiting workers to the skilled trades must be a priority. With the help of "ongoing innovation, competence and skilled worker monitoring" demand can be identified at an early stage and potential tailored solutions can be developed. Another key aspect for the associations is the equivalence of vocational education and training when compared to academic education. "Dual vocational training must once again be perceived more strongly as an attractive training model," the associations say. The general framework needs to bring about a "climate in which all vocational education and training pathways are valued". They explain that careers guidance also needs to be strengthened, the transfer of businesses needs to be made easier, there needs to be a focus on additional target groups and digitalisation must be used.

Thomas Radermacher, President of Tischler Schreiner Deutschland [Carpenters and Joiners Germany] is in no doubt: "A well-considered investment increases the chances of success. The investment in skilled workers guarantees success." Without it, the potential for climate protection which energy-related building renovation entails cannot be exploited. Erwin Kostyra, President of the German Metal Association commented: "For this task, we in the metalworking skilled trade desperately need well-trained skilled workers who understand the complex way in which components in a building shell interact."

Offer made to policymakers

It is a similar situation for the electrical skilled trades. "Within a building, increasing numbers of power-operated technologies are used and digitalisation is advancing rapidly. For this there is an urgent need for qualified skilled workers in the electrical and information technology trades," underlines Lothar Hellmann, ZVEH president. The signatories to the statement are offering to work together with the federal government on solutions and strategies for managing both the climate transformation as well as for initiating a transformation in terms of skilled workers.

Five demands

  1. Emergency programme: The federal government is called on to attach specific targets and numbers to energy efficiency, the decarbonisation of heating grids and to a new building energy law. This includes specific implementation steps and reliable funding for renovation. When monitoring the implementation of climate targets, policymakers must also continually evaluate the skilled worker situation in a transparent manner.
  2. Training and qualification: Vocational schools, centres of excellence and educational institutions in the skilled trades are already operating at breaking point in terms of personnel and technology and need better equipment and facilities. Policymakers must ensure equivalence of vocational and academic education and training. All vocational education and training pathways should be valued. This requires expansion of the upgrading grant (BAföG) and the waiving of costs for advanced and continuing education and training such as master craftsperson training.
  3. Digitalisation: Building technology and the renovation skilled trades desperately require optimal, digital ecosystems to enable the networking of skilled craftspeople and other stakeholders such as energy consultants, regulatory authorities and funding providers in order to be able to work together efficiently and across disciplines.
  4. Collective bargaining coverage: Ensuring the supply of skilled workers in the skilled trades will especially succeed with good working and training conditions safeguarded by collective bargaining agreements. Government-funded renovation measures therefore need to be linked to the collective bargaining coverage of businesses to ensure fair competition.
  5. Sector dialogue: The central associations and IG Metall are expecting dialogue between the sector and policymakers in order to arrive at firm agreements regards climate targets and securing a supply of skilled workers.

Source: (magazine of the German skills sector), revised by iMOVE, December 2022