10 steps to unleashing 3 million UK green jobs

By David Symons, UK Director of Sustainability at WSP | June 25, 2021

As part of the UK Government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan and the Heat & Buildings strategy, a Green Skills Taskforce is due to report this summer on how to deliver three million green jobs in the UK by 2030. To do this, a clear model and clear plan of just where, when and how these jobs are going to come is needed. The ambition of the Government is fantastic and very welcome, but much more detail is required – and quickly. Here’s how we can get there:

1. Be clear about just what green jobs are

Breaking these ‘green jobs’ down into specific sectors – from tree planting to zero carbon building design, from electric car maintenance to designing the zero emission heavy goods vehicle (HGV) networks of the future – will help bring clarity. A first action should be to set out clearly just where are these millions of green jobs going to come from.

Fom tree planting to zero carbon building design – the job opportunites are vast. Image: Unplash.

2. Make skills part of every net zero strategy, not a standalone ‘skills’ piece

It’s a busy year for government sector strategies. Each sector plan should have a clear skills section – setting out what skills are needed by when, how these skills will be delivered and whether there are roles that will disappear in the new plan.

3. Grow the green sectors fast

It’s a race for low carbon skills. Part of the three million jobs will come from new sectors, such as hydrogen, clean HGV technology and carbon capture. The UK and its businesses need to be on the front foot as plenty of other countries have also seen the opportunity, including established competitors like Sweden and fast movers such as the US.

4. Green skills part of every job and every sector, not just the green ones

Across the engineering consulting sector, including WSP, teams design schemes from power generation to building heating systems. Every one of these jobs will need to be reskilled. Power teams will move from fossil fuel to renewables, services engineers from boilers to heat pumps. Call these green jobs or not, it will be critical to make every job a green job. 

Thousands of jobs will be created as part of the shift from fossil fuels to renewables. Image: Unsplash.

5.  Skills for life, not just one age

Education interventions come throughout a 40 year career. Be it school or university, or training the existing workforce and retraining those unfortunate to lose their jobs through the net zero transition, a plan needs to be clear about where the green jobs interventions will come from.

6. Backed by accessible, affordable qualifications and standards

While large companies can put in place large, systematic training programmes the backbone of the UK is small businesses. Much green sector training today is also fragmented and product specific. Strong, sector-wide skills programmes which deliver in an affordable way will provide the evidence.

7. Use green as a way to make less attractive sectors more attractive

The Committee on Climate Change estimates that 350,000 construction workers are needed to deliver net zero by 2028, yet this is just one sector which is struggling to attract people today. Green brings purpose, and so blending green with reliable, secure employment provides a great way to address sector employment challenges.

8. Blend national with local 

There needs to be more recognition of the UK’s diverse regions and what they each offer a net zero future. Teesside is not Southampton; Birmingham is not Bristol. A clear national plan needs to recognise local differences and integrate Local Economic Partnership plans. Already regions from Hertfordshire to Meath in Ireland are positioning low carbon as the focus for inward investment.

9. Responsibility for all

Government has a big role to play in the framework for green skills – providing long term confidence to invest in the framework, but it can’t do it alone. Employers, universities and colleges, Trade Unions and, of course, us as individuals have a role to play.

10. There’s no time to lose

Education and skills can sometimes be slow moving. It took three years to establish WSP’s degree level Environmental Practitioner apprentice, for example. But we all need to move quicker. If we’re going to deliver the net zero economy and meet the highly ambitious transition challenge set by the Committee on Climate Change, we must take fast action. Every year we’re slow about skills sets up resource shortages for the future. And not just that, the other global economies who’ve also set net zero targets will upskill faster, will compete better and will take the jobs that could be ours.

For more information, please visit: https://www.wsp.com/en-GB

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