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Cleantech requires green skills – How to create a workforce for a net zero future

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With the UK cleantech industry facing an ongoing challenge to hire new professionals, now is the time for the younger generation to join the sector via specialist green-skills training and apprenticeships. Worldwide, governments and businesses have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by at least 2050.

Aside from supporting reducing the impacts of global warming, transitioning to a low-carbon economy could produce significant revenue in terms of business value by delivering a sustainable economy consisting of nearly 395 million jobs by 2030, according to the World Economic Forum. Reaching these figures is only possible, however, if countries have enough people equipped with the necessary green skills capable of delivering and maintaining facilities for renewable energy, people who can report on business carbon footprints and technologists capable of creating clean technologies. 

Finding the necessary talent has proven to be a challenge. PwC, for example, has estimated a shortage of about 200,000 professionals with skills in the renewables industry. One way to tackle this skills gap is encouraging young people to pursue a green career, including through apprenticeships.

Sustainable Green Careers

According to a recent study by WorldSkills UK, a partnership between education, industry and government, focuses on enhancing education standards and training, and empowering the younger generation to succeed is critical. The study suggests that 55% of young people are inspired to pursue a green career. Of that figure, 70% wanted to follow this path to tackle the climate crisis, with over 60% saying they were passionate about sustainability. However, young people interested in the green industry are often held back by a lack of information on training opportunities.

In the study, 59% of businesses said they were experiencing green skills gaps, and a higher proportion said they struggled to recruit people with the right green skills. Apprentices can provide support in tackling this skills gap, acquiring training for new jobs or working in long-established industries where roles have progressed, such as heating engineers and electricians who are working more today with low-carbon technologies.

Building a sustainable future

According to WorldSkills UK, the demand for green skills is especially high in construction, manufacturing and clean energy. Technical skills, however, won’t be enough to achieve our climate targets. Communication and problem-solving skills are also a necessity. 

Such diverse skills are explored every two years at the “Skills Olympics”, an international competition for technical skills organised by the global WorldSkills network. One previous participant and event finalist explains that the experience was very positive, gave her confidence and enhanced her skills and expertise. 

This year, WorldSkills UK will run a renewable energy event, partnered with NOCN and enabling the younger generation to develop leading skills in installing and maintaining wind turbines and solar panels. With a growing desire for young people to work in careers that support climate action and the economic benefits from following this path, it is up to us, businesses and government to make it easier to pursue a green career.

Attracting the younger generation to work in the green economy could create many long-term benefits. As well as enhancing sustainable renewable energy production in the UK and supporting a path towards a more sustainable economy, it could also tackle the skills gap in a growing section of the economy and provide a rewarding career path for the next generation.

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