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New Research finds UK Needs To Ramp Up Green Skills Training


The UK’s green transition could be at risk if skills programmes are not ramped up across the private sector, according to new research by Economist Impact and ScottishPower parent company Iberdrola.

A majority (71%) of business leaders agree green skills will be the most important driver, yet just 51% are implementing or planning to implement green skills programmes for their workforce.

Meanwhile, almost two thirds (63%) think that the green transition will create more jobs than it eliminates, with three quarters (74%) saying that the jobs it creates will be higher quality for workers.

Yet a large proportion of the UK workforce is being left without crucial training in the skills necessary for a greener economy.

The Green Skills Outlook, new research from Economist Impact and Europe’s largest electricity company Iberdrola, explores the impact of the green transition in nine labour markets globally, including the UK.  It looks at four sectors of the economy that will play a central role in the green transition: IT and Technology, Construction and Infrastructure, Transport and Logistics, and Energy and Utilities.

The Outlook finds that a large proportion of the UK workforce face missing out on the skills necessary for a greener economy, which risks obstructing the progress of the green transition.

Green transition will have net-positive impact on job creation

UK business leaders are generally optimistic about the green transition:

  • over two thirds (68%) confident it presents more opportunities than challenges
  • Almost three quarters (74%) believe it will create higher quality jobs
  • 63% say it would create more jobs than it eliminates.
  • over 30% in the energy sector identified smart grid implementation as one of the most important green skills to enable their organisation’s green transition,

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that, at a global level, the transition could lead to 25 million net new jobs by 2030, particularly in green sectors and activities.1

The research also finds soft skills will be important to support business leaders’ efforts in transitioning their businesses towards greener ways of working with the top three sought after being environmental awareness (48%), innovation and creativity (42%), and teamwork and collaboration  (35%).

Bridging the green skills gaps will require innovative strategies from governments and the private sector

Overall, business leaders are positive about the green transition. Six in ten (60%) say responsibility for leading it ultimately lies with them rather than policymakers. However, bridging emerging gaps imperative to driving the transition forward will require coordination and innovative strategies on the part of governments, educational institutions, and the private sector.

The top three policies business leaders think should be prioritised to ensure the supply of green skills in the labour market are:

  • Support for the establishment of green skills courses at educational institutions (e.g. through strategic funding) (48%)
  • Support for businesses' investment in up-skilling and re-skilling programmes (e.g. through grants or tax relief) (46%)
  • Adapting existing work and training programmes for the unemployed to increase the emphasis on and support for green skills (41%)

Ignacio Galán, Iberdrola's Executive Chairman, says: “The opportunities presented by the transition are vast, but it is critical that both businesses and policymakers are sharply focused now on ensuring people are equipped with the right skills and training. Without skilled workers, the transition will not be delivered, and the benefits will not be realised.

“As the world emerges from COP with a clear focus on phasing out fossil fuels, as well as tripling renewables in six years, every company in every sector is fully aware that change is coming fast.  Iberdrola and the energy sector also have much more to do, and we are not standing still. In producing this Outlook, we also now have detailed thoughts from a thousand business leaders across the world, giving us valuable insight into where the pinch points are and how they can be addressed.”

Keith Anderson, CEO of ScottishPower says: “The energy sector has been driving the bulk of green jobs to-date and we’ve been proud to lead the transition but as we move to the next phase a much wider range of industries will be competing for talent with those critical skills. 

“Businesses looking to future proof their workforce plans should consider investing in those skills ahead of need to ensure they stay ahead of the game.  The great news for job hunters is that there is a bright future if you have a green skillset.

“As the business leaders we spoke to for our research agreed, the private sector will undoubtably drive the skills agenda but there’s is a debate to be had with policymakers as to how we coordinate and innovate so the UK can take advantage of everything the green transition has to offer.”

Matus Samel, Senior Manager and the Green Skills Outlook Programme Lead at Economist Impact, says: “Restoring faith in the green transition will require significant efforts on the part of governments and the private sector. In order to mitigate any negative externalities, we need a collaborative effort to support investment and infrastructure development, training, education and social programmes in disrupted communities.”