There’s an opportunity in the current economic and political situation to accelerate progress towards a greener future and set in motion the creation of hundreds of thousands of skilled jobs in the coming years. Establishing sustainable and resilient long-term energy security for consumers through renewable power sources and tackling the climate crisis are two critical priorities that can be addressed in tandem. But doing so successfully is an impossible task without combating the huge green skills and jobs gap that the UK is currently facing.
In 2020, the government’s Ten-Point Plan called for 250,000 jobs to deliver on climate goals. National Grid research has identified 400,000 green jobs across the UK’s energy sector to reach net zero by 2050. It’s clear that there can be no hesitation or delay in getting the right skills and people in place.
What do we mean by ‘green jobs’?
The term ‘green jobs’ can have a different meaning in different sectors and industries. At National Grid, we see green jobs as those that will help sectors transition to low-carbon models and contribute to environmental goals. In the energy sector for example, this could include civil, mechanical and electrical engineers, data analysts, machine learning experts and skilled tradespeople. New roles linked to electric vehicles, hydrogen and carbon capture technology will also come to the forefront as these areas evolve.
For other businesses in different sectors, investing in green jobs could mean individuals who drive sustainability agendas or roles managing greener supply chains. But it all ultimately boils down to building a workforce capable of facing and overcoming challenges, harnessing opportunities, and accelerating progress on the road to a cleaner, greener future.
This workforce isn’t restricted to one part of the country, one community or one type of person. Climate change is an issue that will impact us all, and so taking on a role that can help overcome the challenge must be something that is available to everyone. This has to be a fair and just transition which includes people from all backgrounds. The best, most capable net zero workforce needs to be created by diverse talent, filled with people with different experiences, diverse ways of thinking and different approaches that will enable us to turn creative ideas into real solutions.
Shifting from green jobs ambition to recruitment and skills development
So, what can be done to translate the intent and ambition of green jobs and skills into recruitment, retention and retraining? Investment and collaboration between government, trade unions and business is key, and engaging young people to consider green jobs is vital. At the same time, interacting with teachers, parents and guardians who are key to reaching young people must also be part of any plans.
Identify the skills needed
More broadly, there needs to be a focus on mapping out the skills that will be needed to strengthen the economy and deliver on net zero ambitions. That means looking at which skills can be repurposed and at jobs we’ll need as the journey to net zero continues. As net zero technologies develop, these will not only create green roles but provide retraining opportunities for existing jobs and skills within energy intensive sectors and industries. For example, at National Grid we’ve launched a new programme to help us recruit people with relevant STEM skills who are looking to return to the workplace after a career break. This scheme will enable us to harness existing talent and support their reintegration into a workforce that is focused on delivering net zero.
Training on the job is one option which can support the just transition but also re-focus skillsets towards net zero roles. By enabling people to take time out of work to complete training and development alongside their current jobs, we can start to plug gaps in areas where skills can be transferred. It’s a solution that can work for all people across different backgrounds and experiences. For example, employees at National Grid have opportunities to advance their skills, knowledge and capabilities through classroom training at our facilities in Eakring, via e-Learning and through on-the-job training too. There are over 700 courses to choose from to ensure everyone feels able to develop personally and professionally.
The scale of the challenge cannot be ignored, and it certainly won’t be solved overnight. But if we can support people into those jobs that will accelerate the clean energy transition and boost the economic recovery, the rewards could be huge. I know that there is strong appetite to address this issue and collaborate to achieve the best outcome for all. For example, the UK’s newly created Green Jobs Delivery Group, designed to implement recommendations from the Green Jobs Taskforce, a joint initiative from BEIS and the Department for Education with representatives from business, trade unions and academia, has set itself the ambition of creating and supporting up to 480,000 skilled well-paid green jobs by 2030. By acting on the Taskforce recommendations with urgency, this Group could shift the UK government from intent to action. Failure to do so risks derailing chances of a long-term green recovery and delivering on critical climate goals.
If you’re interested in hearing more, join National Grid at the CBI conference: Achieving Net Zero on 7-8 June.