Now is the time to build up our M&E workforce - Grace Mair

Construction is a linchpin in the economy. It creates jobs, generates tax revenue and, contributes significantly to our GDP.

However, at Thomas & Adamson, we acknowledge that the built environment is a large producer of carbon, making it a substantial contributor to the climate crisis. We work with our clients to provide a range of solutions, helping them to meet internal sustainability targets.

Targets set out by government mean that we will need to change the way in which we design future buildings, as well as requiring the retrofitting and modernisation of existing stock. For example, legislation from the Scottish government will prohibit gas boilers in new buildings from next year, meaning that alternative heating methods such as air source heat pumps need to be considered. This poses a substantial challenge for the industry to ensure that the workforce, at all levels, have adequate skills to meet this new demand.

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There is a need to address the shortage of qualified personnel in the mechanical and electrical (M&E) side of the industry, as these skills are important in ensuring these targets are met. We need to ensure that those entering for the first time have the required skills, as well as upskilling our existing workforce.

​Grace Mair, Regional Director, Thomas & Adamson​Grace Mair, Regional Director, Thomas & Adamson
​Grace Mair, Regional Director, Thomas & Adamson

At Thomas & Adamson, we are looking to the future, working with trainees and graduates to give them the required M&E know how to meet these challenges, but at present we are not seeing anywhere near the number of new recruits needed to hit the ambitious targets. The question now is how we address this and, perhaps more importantly, who should be responsible; the government, educational institutions, or the industry?

For me, there must be a consensus on how we approach this. While the government has set the targets, they have provided little support to the industry to achieve them. Funding should be made available for both industry and educational institutions to prioritise upskilling of the workforce.

Colleges and Universities also need to prepare the workforce for the change that is coming. There is an increasing demand for specialised M&E labour, but many new entrants into the market do not have the required skills. Whilst it is important for students to develop a range of experience, specialised courses and modules should be made available and opportunities within the M&E space should be a focus.

The role of industry can also not be forgotten. Businesses within the sector drive innovation and they should not be shy of celebrating the exciting new roles, both for those entering the industry for the first time, as well as training the existing workforce to help fill them. As a sector we need to be appealing to a whole new generation, providing them with the skills and understanding to meet government targets.

It is imperative that the future workforce is prepared for these changes. The industry must show a willingness to lead the change, by promoting M&E roles and lobbying industry bodies, such as the Chartered Institute of Building services and RICS, to take action - otherwise it is not just the future of the built environment that will be at risk.

​Grace Mair, Regional Director, Thomas & Adamson

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