Green Skills in education and employment

Green Skills in education and employment: As we get closer to the UK’s target of Net Zero by 2050, there will be greater demand for green skills in the workforce.

The Association recognises that the lack of a ‘standard definition’ has made comparing the supply and demand of green skills and jobs difficult. The green skills in education and employment paper from January 2024 set out better definitions and indicates a more unified approach to the nurturing and growing skills and people in the workforce needed to help contribute towards the 2050 target.

Green Skills in education and employment

Green Skills in education and employment

What is a green job? 

The UK Green Jobs Taskforce defines a Green Job as “employment in an activity that directly contributes to, or indirectly supports, the achievement of UK’s Net Zero emissions target and other environmental goals”.

What are green skills?

Green skills are generally defined as “the knowledge, abilities, values and attitudes needed to live in, develop and support a society which reduces the impact human activity on the environment”. Some use ‘green’ to describe sectors that are already low carbon, but green skills are also associated with sectors that are in the process of lowering their carbon emissions.

How can I get green skills? 

All the education and employment systems and sectors will play a key role in enabling the teaching and nurturing of green skills and the promotion of routes into green jobs. Apprenticeships, vocational education, and skills academies through companies will be important. There have been calls from the sector to the Government for more collaboration between the government and industries to identify skills gaps and communicate training routes to the public. The Green Jobs Delivery Group is an example of this to contribute to targets at a national level.

Upskilling workers will be necessary to address green skills shortages, in addition to growing the workforce in the sector.  For reference, 80% of the workforce by 2030 are already in employment now therefore much of the green skills and jobs transition will involve upskilling existing workers.

The demand and access for green skills varies from region to region in the UK and the Association calls on the Government to look at ways they can align this policy with the levelling up agenda to reduce regional disparities. We are expecting to see the publication a Net Zero and Nature Workforce Action Plan in the first half of 2024 and the Association will update members accordingly.

Currently there are several schemes focused on upskilling, though not all are specific to green skills. These are:

  • Skills Boot Camps: Free courses of up to 16 weeks for adults aged 19+, which focus on digital, technical, and green skills.
  • Free Courses for Jobs: will allow eligible adults aged 19+ to gain a free Level 3 qualification.
  • The Lifelong Learning Entitlement (LLE): This will apply from September 2025, and will provide loans for learners studying courses at Levels 4-6 up to age 60.

The Welsh Government have a Personal Learning Accounts Scheme, which offers funded courses to adult learners, with incentives for digital and green skills.

The Scottish Government has a Flexible Workforce Development Fund which is a scheme focused on small and medium enterprises, offering funding for the upskilling of employees.

Vocational Educational Training supports the routes for technical education in the UK with apprenticeships, T levels and Higher Technical Qualifications. Since 2017, UK apprenticeships have been funded by the Apprenticeship Levy. Larger employers pay the levy, which funds the apprenticeship training costs for both large and small employers. Enrolment into Apprenticeships has seen a 25% decline since the introduction of the levy, with further decline due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, especially with fewer apprenticeships at lower qualification levels.

There is now a higher proportion of degree-level apprenticeships, although, this could consequently risk restricting access to the job market for people requiring level 2 qualifications.

Universities have a responsibility to establish routes into senior roles in decarbonising sectors. As we get closer to the 2050 net zero target, the demand for sustainability professionals providing business advice will rise. There has been an increase in demand for STEM subjects among prospective students, but more needs to be done to recruit and retain students from under-represented groups for these courses.

Schools will play a vital role in teaching green skills, and informing and encouraging young people to enter careers that contribute to net zero and other climate goals in the UK. We have seen an increase in the number of employers in key sectors that are involved with schools in outreach programmes. The Association encourages the continuation of this trend.

What are the challenges and opportunities for green skills development?  

There is a shortage of skills to deliver nature-based solutions at scale. Land-based sectors are using more modern technologies to improve efficiency and reduce emissions, such as livestock genetics and remote sensing in forestry, highlighting the growing need for digital skills within the workforce. A 2023 review of labour shortages in the land-based sector found that many people have negative perceptions and that working hours and conditions can be unappealing. The association will be exploring into what more it can do to support training under time constraints and how we can lower the barriers to new prospective workers.

Our take

The policy commitments and collaboration between the Government and UK industries are essential to increase the levels of investment, demand, and skills provision for Green Jobs in the economy. Whilst policies and funding may drive the change for more green skills and green jobs, the Association recognises that the public procurement of goods and services with a reduced impact on the environment will also help drive the demand for green skills and jobs.

The Association plays a key role in ensuring the sector continues to upskill, through defining best practices and accreditation. The GoLandscape initiative aids in communicating various routes into the industry for school leavers and career changers alike.

The Association also recognises its responsibility to ensure those already working in the industry, hold the skills and knowledge necessary to adapt to the changing targets. Through BALI’s collaborative work with respected bodies including the Landscape Institute and Horticultural Trades Association, the Association will be well placed to help members service the needs of a new generation of clients and climate-sensitive projects.

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