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Five Challenges to Upskilling Construction Workers

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For quite some time, the need to upskill the construction industry labour force to deliver quality nearly zero-energy buildings (nZEB) and deep energy renovations is quoted as one of the main challenges to the sector nowadays.


Even though the BUILD UP Skills initiative and the consequent Construction Skills projects under the Horizon 2020 programme evidenced major success around the continent, the need to mainstream nZEB training is still overspread, and some of the ingredients seems to be missing.


However, a small French training provider has found a curious recipe – one that’s definitely worth sharing….


Challenge 1: Awareness


At Practee Formations (, they know that without understanding the benefits and the principles of low-energy buildings, there will be no market demand for nZEBs, and hence – no demand for nZEB training.


So they invented no less than 7 interactive demo models (“The Practee Box”), visually demonstrating the energy-related processes in the buildings and the impact of the different materials.


So good that the biggest French DIY retail chain uses them in “energy efficiency” corners in their stores to explain and promote the use of nZEB-compatible products to its clients.


Challenge 2: Testing and Recognition of Skills


Well, there’s already some evidence of the fact that workers don’t really appreciate the need of new knowledge and skills.


But what if they are challenged to demonstrate what they are able to do? By using a special mobile equipment, just 2 hours are needed to test workers on their skills in insulation and airtightness, installation of windows and ventilation, and then we can develop an individual training program corresponding to their needs - anytime, anywhere...


If the skills are there – they are recognized by a certificate. But if there are evident skills gaps, the motivation grows increasingly as professional pride is challenged. Bingo!


Challenge 3: Practical training


Lectures, PowerPoint presentations, calculations, written tests… Not the cup of tea for your regular construction worker, we might be tempted to think, and yet this is how our educational system works. Well, not at Practee Formations: the facilities here provide perfect conditions for hands-on practical training on all regular construction types, with real-size ventilation system and piping also available.


Challenge 4: Lack of time


Unfortunately, we all know from experience that even the best facilities are useless if nobody comes to use them. Workers won’t come as they don’t fancy training, employers won’t pay as they fear training will be formal and with no long-term outcomes.


But there is already a solution: But there is already a solution: a fully equipped training wagon that goes directly to the building site! No time is wasted and the newly mastered solutions are directly applied to the task at hand, overseen by professional trainers.


And it’s working - public procurers in France are already putting requirements to undergo such training for their new projects.


Challenge 5: Integration of new technologies


To become even more enticing, Horizon 2020 project BIMplement ( is already integrating training based on enhanced BIM models and augmented reality with the Practee mobile practical training facilities.


In combination with new smartphone applications as the BUILD UP Skills Advisor App and the Train-to-NZEB app, this approach opens entirely new horizons to construction skills development.


Next steps: spreading the knowledge


With the help of French BUILD UP Skills promoter Alliance Villes Emploi, the word is spreading among the vocational training community.


The Building Knowledge Hubs network established under the Train-to-NZEB ( and Fit-to-NZEB ( projects, providing similar services and facilities, is more than willing to exchange experience, and common learning outcomes for construction workers are being discussed within the BIM Alliance of Horizon 2020 supported projects.


All avenues are open…