The UK’s 10-point plan to achieve net zero climate emissions by 2050 is a shared responsibility. Central to the plan is the construction industry, which will be responsible for designing, building and maintaining the infrastructure that will play a pivotal role in decarbonising our built environment.

However, the entire construction industry is facing large and persistent skills gaps and skills shortages, that may hamper its ability to make good on the government’s ambitions. The issue of skills and employment encompasses recruitment, training and retention of workers.

To assess the performance of current employment and skills programmes, we conducted qualitative research among practitioners involved in the Thames Tideway Tunnel Project, and among stakeholders from industry.

We discover that skills and employment programmes in the infrastructure sector are hamstrung by a lack of collective action among firms, and a lack of leadership in government. However, we also find that the workforce is already capable, at least in terms of its knowledge and technical capability, of building the infrastructure needed to achieve net zero.