The BUILD UP Skills initiative aims at upskilling the next generation of construction sector workers, especially related to Nearly Zero-Energy Building (NZEB) standards. Among the projects funded under Horizon 2020 programme, we interviewed the project coordinator of Fit-to-NZEB, Dragomir Tzanev, to know more about the project and its achievements.
What was your project about?
Fit-to-NZEB was the continuation of a previous project, Train-to-NZEB, which established five training and education centres in countries in central and eastern Europe. We found that there is a lack of knowledge regarding the specifics of deep energy retrofitting, not only among construction workers but also among higher level professionals, and we wanted to fill that void creating new training programmes.
What were your main achievements?
We proudly changed the educational plans for professional high schools, added new courses to higher education systems and offered a lot of new upskilling courses. This was one of the main challenges we faced in the educational and training environment, as changing the educational plans needs time and continuous effort. As a consequence, a large number of professionals were trained: more than 2500 people with Train-To-NZEB and more than 1000 in a shorter time with Fit-To-NZEB. The training centres managed to build a good reputation for upskilling courses, while qualification courses in high schools and universities continue in the current academic year.
What was the biggest challenge you faced, and how did you overcome it?
As said, changing the educational system was the biggest challenge. Another difficulty was the alignment of educational systems among different countries and the mutual recognition of learning outcomes. This is an area where we still face problems but where we made important first steps, with our training courses being recognized by many different training institutions.
Finally, we improved the quality of the learning process by introducing practical trainings: with the development of new building concepts and technologies, theoretical ones are not enough to achieve the impact needed. We also found out that practical demonstrations have a great communication potential. Now we have to bring them out in public, to make a real impact on the market.
How did Horizon 2020 funding help the project achieve its goals?
Without H2020 funding, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve all these results in this timeframe. Moreover, it had an important impact in terms of publicity and recognition of our efforts, providing us with good visibility at the national level and acceptance from national stakeholders. It’s difficult for a small organization to try and change the educational system, but backed by a big international consortium and supported by the European Commission we succeeded.
What is your key to success?
I would advise good teamwork and the involvement of all partners not only in the project implementation, but also in its publicity and communication. They should become familiar, recognizable faces in the professional community. This makes a difference in terms of how the project is implemented at the national and international level and it gives a serious impetus to project partners themselves, as they increase efforts for the achievement of planned results.