The Industry and Parliament Trust hosted a Breakfast Event between parliamentarians, skills providers and industry entitled, ‘COP26: Creating a Green Jobs Revolution’ on Wednesday 27 October. The discussion was chaired by Mark Pawsey MP, a member of the Select Committee on Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, with guest speakers Emma Pinchbeck, Chief Executive Officer, Energy UK and Professor Robin Clark, Dean of Warwick Manufacturing Group, Warwick University.
The Need for Green Jobs
With the UK Government and the devolved administrations already committed to achieving Net Zero in less than thirty years, it’s clear that a huge shift in technologies, skills and jobs will be needed to deliver on that commitment. The Government itself assesses that public investment alone will create 440,000 new jobs in green industries by 2030.
Looking at particular sectors, achieving our current hydrogen production targets will lead to the creation of 9,000 new jobs, while moving to the adoption of low carbon domestic heating systems will require the development of a workforce capable of delivering over 600,000 domestic heat pumps in just the next seven years!
The Coming Green Transformation
If we are to achieve these goals, it’s clear that there will be a transformation of job needs across UK energy supply, transport, construction and heavy industry amongst others. This will lead to firms needing to deploy new technologies and requiring an education and technical skills system able to both support new workers as well as current employees.
Taking cars as an example. Where, today we have people who manufacture and maintain internal combustion engines, and supply the nation with petrol and diesel, we will need people capable of manufacturing and installing battery packs and power electronics, installing charging networks and recycling batteries for home use.
Creating a Coherent Skills Pathway
The need for Net Zero and the fiscal pressure of the post-COVID era creates a moment in which it’s necessary to realign the UK workforce to new skills, and that means reconsidering how we offer skills overall.
Today, Education and Skills is a very fragmented space, with different needs being met be different agencies, whether for 16-18 education, post 18, workplace learning and adult skills and apprenticeships. Each of these can be offered by different sets of providers, whether Universities, FE Colleges, Academies, or companies themselves. We don’t often think too carefully about how these parts fit together such that we can maximise the value for all involved, individuals, business and wider society.
To change this, the Faraday Institution, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and WMG have proposed a ‘National Electrification Skills Framework’, which identifies electric vehicle job roles across levels to map these against skills programmes that Colleges, Employers and Universities may be able to provide. The intent is to create a common, recognised electrification skills pathway, so a new employee can see how their initial apprenticeship provided by an employer and local FE college might lead to a part-time degree at University, right up to postgraduate qualifications.
Giving Students and Employers Confidence
We need these kinds of approaches to skills to give employers confidence in the worth of courses at each level, allow providers to work together, sharing experiences, materials and updating courses over time and give students confidence their qualifications are worthwhile and will lead to opportunity.
The future framework for retraining and reskilling needs to be flexible, creating a pathway which encompasses both people entering the workforce as apprentices, people training for new sectors as part of their current job, perhaps through the lifelong leaning entitlement, and people in decarbonising sectors being supported in developing the skills needed for the decarbonised form of their industry. In turn, this creates the possibility of sharing academic credit between institutions, so courses could be taken in college first before moving to university.
This approach is currently being developed for Electrification, but it’s clear from the government’s language in the Skills Bill, that the intent of policy is to apply this thinking to every area of green jobs. We can’t afford fragmentation and structural complexity if we’re going to move at speed.
The Need for a Local Approach
Equally, the green jobs in different communities will have different needs, for example a coastal constituency may have a strong offshore wind and nuclear sector, whereas a Midlands constituency may see growth in solar and battery manufacturing. Skills providers will need to flexibly respond to the needs of industries expanding locally, and so the skills system will need to engage closely with industry, as proposed under Local Skills Improvement Plans.
Words by Professor Robin Clarke, Dean of Warwick Manufacturing Group, Warwick University