Skills and training are “misaligned” to meet the needs of key industries driving a green economy.
A lack of public awareness, a demand for greater stability and direction through government policy and the need to transition existing industry workforces have been identified as the main cross-sectoral challenges in establishing a green economy.
In April 2021, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) submitted a report to the UK’s Green Jobs Taskforce, established to set the direction for the job market in the transition to a low carbon economy, setting out the green skills challenges of the three industries with the “most immediate and pressing” decarbonisation targets.
Identifying industries serving the areas of home efficiency, automotive and electric vehicles, and clean power, as those in most pressing need, the report assesses that at present, skills and training is misaligned to the needs of key industries.
The report adds: “There are serious concerns about the availability of current skills along with the training available to upskill people into the new roles that are emerging. There is also an immediate demand for skills and training due to the short timescales for delivery, which are partly brought on by government targets in industries undergoing decarbonisation.”
While each sector will have issues relating to its own specific transition, the CBI have identified three challenges which apply to all sectors of the green economy for government consideration:
Public awareness: Supporting growth of the consumer market and stimulating demand will require huge efforts in educating the public and a stronger brand is needed if individuals are to consider careers in these key sectors.
Government policy: While the UK Government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution is helpful for business and policy makers in setting a broad vision for priority sector transitions, it “stops short” of offering a full net-zero strategy from government. Without greater certainty, business face risks of the threat of changing government policy but this can be offset by long-term policy commitments and goals.
Industry transition: As industry works to prepare their workforces for change, government has a role to support more fundamental retraining of staff in order to retain skills in the labour market.
While private training and in-house training will be key drivers to meet more immediate and short-term green skills demand, long-term changes will require education and learning right across the education system. The report adds: “Beyond formal education, the government should also seek to implement higher levels of technical knowledge that can be delivered via online courses and could encourage routes to more specialist training within sectors. The Government’s Skills Toolkit, rolled out during the pandemic to support online learning, should look to develop content that supports career guidance and transitions into green industries.” Additionally, the report places heavy emphasis on apprenticeships and the related value in supporting new talent and transitions across sectors, highlighting that the existing apprenticeship system “remains too slow to respond to change and it can often take years to develop new standards”.
Although referencing the clean energy industry in particular, the report’s emphasis on the need to minimise risk to livelihoods by supporting workers to understand the relevance of their skills to growing green industries is applicable across most sectors. Identifying a skills gap, whereby those working in greener industries tend to be significantly higher than those still working in brown industries, the CBI says: “It will be vital for government to support workers where they are displaced with training, support, and careers guidance so they are able to transition into the ‘leader’ industries.”