Eugenio Quintieri is the Secretary-General of the European Builders Confederation (EBC) since June 2017.
In addition to managing EBC secretariat, Eugenio represents EBC in the European Social dialogue committee, supervises several legislative fields, including the digitalisation of the construction sector, and acts as EBC leading spokesperson.
Representing EBC in SMEunited, Eugenio is also a board member of Small Business Standards, the organisation representing SMEs in the European and international standardisation processes.
1. Can you share about the history, activities and scope of the European Builders Confederation?
In 1990, several national associations representing construction micro-enterprises, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and craftsmen joined forces to establish the European Builders Confederation (EBC), that has become their voice at the European level since then.
At EBC, we represent, defend and promote the interests of our micro, small and medium-sized entrepreneurs, in close coordination with our national member organisations.
Our mission is to ensure that construction SMEs’ specific needs are taken into consideration during the European legislative process in order to create a business environment that enables them to be the driver of sustainable economic growth in Europe.
2. SMEs, Small or very-small enterprises are common in the sector, what are the advantages and hindrances of such structures?
99.9% out of more than 3 million enterprises of the construction sector are micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and crafts. Due to their size, they often have fewer capacities to cope with market challenges and thus need particular support to reach their full economic potential.
However, being an SME also present different advantages in the construction market.
First, we are closer to our customers, and this enables us to meet their needs more accurately and offer a more tailored service.
Second, we have more flexible structures which allow us to make decisions faster.
Third, as in other sectors, our SMEs are catalysts for jobs creation and quality on-site training.
Finally, we are able to better detect and take advantage of small market niches, as it is the case for the several specialised crafts in the renovation market.
3. Regarding into the 2030 and 2050 perspective, what is the contribution that the construction sector can give to the future European society?
As we have stated in our joint paper “Construction 2050: Building tomorrow’s Europe today”, in EBC we steer for a high quality, low environmental impact and highly resource-efficient built environment for all citizens.
It will be reached through a fully decarbonised and circular approach that will contribute to achieving EU sustainability targets.
We believe that, if equipped with the appropriate instruments, our sector will foster a sustainable society by facilitating the adoption of more sustainable lifestyles and economic models.
These will increase quality of life, cultural diversity, respect for heritage, individual and collective well-being, social justice and cohesion, and economic stability; in short, a new and better society in which I can easily imagine myself as a European citizen.
In order to be active players of this transformation, EBC was part of the initial group behind the creation of the Construction 2050 Alliance, a newly established partnership of 47 European organisations working together to advance the needs and priorities of the wider construction and built-environment sector at EU level.
This Alliance constitutes an unprecedented level of cooperation under a common vision towards a sustainable construction sector.
One of the main work priorities of the Alliance is the human factor in construction because “more, better and safer jobs” is the number one contribution by our sector to the livelihood of the European economy.
The underlying objectives are to improve the image of the industry and to properly train all construction professionals with regard to digitisation and environmental responsibility.
4. The National Recovery Plans from this year’s quandaries, the EU Green Deal provisions and its Renovation Wave strategy, in particular, are aiming significant ambitions and will need an appropriate skills panorama: is the construction sector ready to take up this responsibility?
The construction sector suffers from a shortage of qualified labour and a lack of interest from young people.
At the same time, the new European ambitions ask construction workers to continuously demonstrate new abilities related to digitalisation, circular economy, energy efficiency and improved occupational health and safety regulations.
While these skills are starting to be addressed by public policies, further work is needed to address current and upcoming challenges of the construction sector and make sure that the European goals are achieved.
In our Erasmus+ project “Construction Blueprint – Establishing a new strategy on construction skills in Europe”, we have developed a Strategic Action Plan and Roadmap which enshrines our vision to adapt the demand for skills and the current training offer to face these challenges.
This sectoral skills strategy is therefore intended to support the overall growth strategy of the construction industry and is based on the following pillars:
- Political: Provide a suitable political and regulatory framework
- Educational: Develop an appropriate educational strategy to address skill challenges
- Environmental: Integrate green skills in Vocational and Educational Training (VET)
- Economic: Foster the sector’s transformation, innovation and sustainability
- Social: Make the sector more attractive and ensure inclusiveness and a just transition
5. Upskilling of the overall sector stakeholders has been identified as a significant challenge and a key element to move forward. What is EBC already doing in this field, and what would be your main policy requests to address this challenge?
Considering the importance of skills in our sector, our action plan on this subject comprises several levels. We support our respective national affiliates in exchanging information and good practices amongst them.
Moreover, we advocate for an EU policy framework that ensures a functioning and fair labour market, high health and safety levels on construction sites.
We advocate as well as for vocational education and training programmes that match the needs of construction companies, prepare the sector for future skills needs and attract new talents.
Finally, we also take part in various EU-funded projects, mainly focusing on the green and digital transitions, which require developing new skills for apprentices, trainers, entrepreneurs and, in fact, the whole value chain.
However, addressing the skills’ challenge in our sector would need more technical and financial support from European and national institutions.
On the technical side, SMEs need more guidance on available funds for upskilling or reskilling initiatives in the construction sector through dedicated one-stop-shops.
Additionally, support should be set aside for construction-specific digital innovation hubs to train the workforce on how to make the best use of innovation.
On the financial side, we expect that the EU funds which will be available in the framework of the Recovery Plan and the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) would help alleviate the sectoral skills challenges.
However, as social affairs are a national/regional competence, a strong political and financial commitment from national governments will be crucial.
Finally, EU funds for the human factor in construction should be streamlined and made more result-oriented (e.g. Erasmus+ requests too many burdensome formalities with no clear added value).
6. Construction industry is known to be a conservative and slow-changing sector… From your experience and role @ EBC, how would you describe the potential evolution in the next years – that could see a substantial increase in energy performance regulations?
The building sector constitutes a key area of action for the EU in order to reach its energy efficiency goals set within the 2030 framework for climate and energy and to achieve international commitments.
Regulatory measures can boost the achievement of these goals and, for this reason, EBC was in favour of the 2016-2018 (2018/844/EU) revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD).
This revision promotes notably the acceleration of the cost-effective renovation of existing buildings, which would be a win-win situation for the whole European economy, including the construction sector.
However, due to its intrinsic nature, the sector requires a stable, well-implemented regulatory framework rather than constant, disruptive changes.
The focus on the implementation of current legislation is particularly important when considering that Building Performance Institute Europe’s review of EU Member States’ 2020 Long-term Renovation Strategies (LTRS) shows that we are far from a proper implementation of the EPBD:
- Six months after the deadline for their submission to the European Commission on 10 March 2020, more than half of EU Member States have still not yet presented their strategies.
- The assessment of available LTRS finds these strategies to be largely non-compliant with provisions of the revised EPBD
Thus, let’s ensure that the current legislation is well-implemented before thinking about a new regulatory framework!