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Under the European research and innovation program Horizon 2020, on 1 June 2021, the Economic Chamber of North Macedonia launched the project Sustainable EnErgy Skills in construction: Visible, Validated, Valuable – SEEtheSkills, which is carried out in partnership with 10 entities from 5 countries: North Macedonia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and the Netherlands, and the Economic Chamber of North Macedonia is coordinator of the project activities.
- The main Chamber priority while carrying out the projects is to raise the competitive advantages of certain sectors, such as the construction sector, under this SEEtheSkills project, through which we will actively work on development of digital tools and labor for constructing energy efficient buildings, aiming to allow Macedonian companies from this sector to develop equally with other European companies, especially concerning the application of the energy efficiency parameters and the introduction of renewable energy sources in new buildings – pointed out Antoni Peshev, MBA, Executive Director of the Economic Chamber of N Macedonia.

The adoption of the new seven-year budget of the European Commission last year was reflected in the European Green Deal, being the first and most serious priority of the European Union, which represents an European roadmap to sustainable economies, composed of 4 ambitious goals: complete elimination of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, protection of all life from air pollution, and support for companies to use technologies and materials that do not pollute the environment, all of which should be achieved through inclusive transition, without losing jobs or impoverishing the population – pointed out Prof. Dr. Hristina Spasevska, Education Vice Rector at the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje. 

In her address, Prof. Dr. Spasevska added that part of the Horizon program is aimed at the construction sector, through projects relating to:
-    Improvement of energy efficiency in buildings (new or undergoing renovation).
-    Use of renewable energy sources, especially photovoltaic, such as large photovoltaic power plants or small systems placed upon buildings.
-    Digitalization of the construction sector.
-    Training and certification of employees, engineers and other professionals.

The construction sector is of great importance, considering that buildings are responsible for 40% of the total energy consumption and therefore, improving the energy efficiency will reduce the demand for energy-generating products, but will also reduce their price. Much of the workforce, especially here, lacks formal education or has no official documents for the skills they possess. This renders the companies uncompetitive in their business, and the workforce uncompetitive on the labor market – highlighted Prof. Dr. Spasevska.

Building upon the experience and results of previous projects, and following the European and national policies in the past 10 years, the Economic Chamber of North Macedonia and its partners carried out three projects under the European programs (Build Up Skills MK 2011-2013, BUS BEET 2014-2016, and TRAINEE 2018-2020), initially FP7, followed by Horizon 2020 concerning strategic training of workers and engineers to apply energy efficiency measures in buildings and renewable energy sources. It is quite rare for an institution that comes from a non-EU state to coordinate this type of projects, of which we are exceptionally proud – emphasized Prof. Dr. Hristina Spasevska.

The previous projects left behind multiple documents and activities, which define the steps toward energy efficient and sustainable construction, namely: a roadmap was prepared to develop the capacities of the construction sector, and where occupations were identified that were essential to achieve the energy efficiency goals; 14 different training programs were developed; 50 trainings were held; and over 1,800 construction workers and engineers acquired certificate of knowledge and skills in energy efficiency and sustainable construction. 

North Macedonia will transfer the already developed methodology for recognizing prior learning to its European partners, being a method to certify informal knowledge and skills, as well as the experience of the pilot.

The project activities to be undertaken in the coming period will involve several aspects, namely: creating broad, integrated database of certified workers; available energy efficiency trainings; companies that employ certified people, as well as development of catalogue of energy efficient materials.

-    Construction is a priority sector of this three-year project, and the goal is to prepare it and make it more competitive in terms of the European values, obtaining the necessary know-how and technology, which are currently applied by the European construction companies – pointed out Jadranka Arizankovska, coordinator of the project activities.

The project is expected to deliver better visibility, access and recognition of the energy skills among partner countries through cross-validation based on learning outcomes, while applying a novel 3V approach to directly stimulate market demand for energy skills in the construction sector. Moreover, analyses will be conducted of the existing regulations in all five countries that participate in the project and amendments to the regulations will be proposed to the governments, aiming to ensure unhindered construction of energy efficient buildings by the construction industry while applying the latest digital technologies and upgraded skills. Moreover, all these achievement will be internationally recognized, added Arizankovska. 

All 5 countries are expected to contribute with roughly 500 construction professionals, 2,000 workers, 1,200 tenants or building owners, over 50 professional organizations, 200 companies, etc. With the activities of increasing the value of energy skills, the project is expected to strongly raise the awareness of the significance of skills and their value, launching thereby the “Renovation Wave”, one of the components of the European Green Deal, as well as the activities that involve proposals for stronger legislation concerning the energy efficiency in buildings, which is in fact, the second component of the European Green Deal.

This project represents a serious attempt to keep pace with Europe and with the implementation of the European Green Deal, which would imply achieving the energy goals and completion of the activities toward overcoming the climate challenges.

Ivana Ancev, LLM
Associate at the organizational unit for member representation and networking