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Green skills for the future of work

Addressing the green skills talent crisis that could cost us the Earth

TALiNT International Guest Contributor, Richard Ng, talks about the green skills emergency and meeting net zero goals.

Content Insights

Green skills are imperative.
The green skills emergency is a major barrier to the climate transition challenge.
The green skills shortfall needs a coordinated effort between educators and employers.

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Anyone who works in the field of HR and talent recruitment will know that problem solving is one of the key skills necessary for success.

And yet, there are some problems that appear too big to solve – at least at first glance. Take the green skills emergency. Right now it’s the major barrier to the climate transition challenge. Addressing it is going to require our very best problem-solvers to step up and deliver.

There are an estimated 30 million green workers needed globally by 2030 to fill frontline net zero roles. While this represents a huge opportunity for those in the recruitment, skills and training industries, any failure to deliver the talent quickly enough will cause a mammoth, multi-billion pound bottleneck for global economies and our net zero goals.

Contrary to what many might think, the bulk of these jobs won’t be tech- or science-focused. What the world needs most of all is skilled manual workers – technicians, engineers and retrofitters capable of installing EV charge points, heat pumps and solar panels on a truly massive scale.

Addressing the green skills emergency is absolutely essential if any of the world’s net zero goals are to be fully realised.

And when it comes to green jobs, the most relevant talent – i.e. people in existing skilled manual professions – have no idea these roles even exist. Just one in every 10,000 workers leaving a traditional (i.e. non-green) job moves into a green one. So how can we set about solving the problem?

It all starts with education

To begin to tackle the green skills emergency, we need to make sure that people understand what green jobs are, and why, in addition to being very important for the planet, they actually present a brilliant career opportunity for anyone looking for a well-paid, fully futureproofed role.

But it’s not enough to find the talent willing to take on these new green jobs (and that’s a big challenge in of itself). We must also develop better ways to deliver the practical skills and knowledge they need to fulfil the roles, and to do so rapidly and at scale.

In the UK, for example, our existing training system, which is built around traditional lecture-based training delivered over 2-3 year programmes, is hopelessly ill-equipped to redress the misalignment of skills supply vs demand. In some cases it could take as long as five years to even start a solar panel installation qualification because the existing system tries to shepherd people through a full electrical qualification as an entry requirement.

This pathway isn’t particularly attractive to a school leaver looking to get a foot on the career ladder and start earning, let alone an experienced mid-life adult already in full-time employment. Most people don’t want, or aren’t able, to take large periods of time out from paid roles to reskill or upskill. If they did, it would only be shifting the problem by creating candidate shortages in other areas!

A more practical approach to reskilling is needed

Instead we need an approach that takes into consideration the different circumstances of a diverse range of candidates who may be interested in these types of roles, for example, when and how they can fit in learning new skills around their existing commitments, and what long-term skills they’ll need to develop beyond initial training.

To begin to tackle the green skills emergency, we need to make sure that people understand what green jobs are, and why, in addition to being very important for the planet.

Our team at Greenworkx has extensive experience working in the education and tech sectors, so we’ve been able to combine this expertise to create a place for people to discover green jobs, get matched into training and employment opportunities and access bit-sized learning in practical skills and knowledge directly applicable to relevant job roles. We’re focusing exclusively on frontline, technical roles for net zero and trying to pinpoint ways in which we can seamlessly bridge the gap between potential candidates, technical education and long-term employment.

But we cannot solve this problem alone. Our hope is that, as more organisations turn their attention to solving the green skills shortage, a community of learners will begin to emerge across different sectors and regions, people who will not only transition into these vital green job roles, but may also be capable of reskilling others.

 The pursuit of net zero should empower as well as disrupt

Like many of the complex global challenges we are facing in the transition to net zero, the green skills shortfall needs a coordinated effort between educators, employers and the international talent sector.

As the conduit between businesses and employees, those working in HR and recruitment, particularly in sectors with the greatest immediate need for green skills such as energy, transport and utilities, have a critical role to play in helping businesses to predict the skills and talent requirements of the future, as well as supporting individuals to consider and transition into these new roles.

One path to success could be encouraging employers to diversify the talent pool in which they are currently looking. It is well known that the renewable industry, engineering and the energy sector as a whole lacks diversity amongst its employees. By actively seeking candidates beyond the traditional routes and adapting their offering to ensure they have a proposition that is truly inclusive and attractive to a diverse range of people, businesses can gain a competitive advantage over their peers when it comes to plugging their green skills gap.

Perhaps most importantly of all, the upskilling and retraining routes on offer need to be far more accessible – to young people, to skilled tradespeople and to anyone who is currently in low income or precarious employment, or is simply looking to change career path.

Addressing the green skills emergency is absolutely essential if any of the world’s net zero goals are to be fully realised. But it can also be an opportunity to empower millions of people, giving them the skills and knowledge needed to pursue meaningful, lucrative and more sustainable careers.

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