While the fight against climate change has already begun, arguably the next generation will be responsible for its pivotal battle. This will require a workforce fully trained up in green skills, which – at the time of writing – are in comparatively short supply in the UK.
The green skills shortage is a challenge, certainly, but it’s also an opportunity. The UK has a chance to lead the world in the green economy, which will require a skilled workforce. By addressing the green skills shortage as a country, we can ensure that we have the talent needed to build a sustainable future.
Here we’ll look at how it’s possible to upskill the next generation, so that it has the requisite green credentials to take on climate change in earnest.
- The green skills shortage is a serious problem for the UK, but it’s not insurmountable.
- By providing fresh perspective, adaptability and a collaborative mindset, the next generation are in a key position for helping to hit our net-zero target by 2050.
- To help equip those yet to learn green skills, this should permeate all stages of education. Plus green skills training should be accessible, fun and relevant, with financial incentives available.
What are green skills?
Green skills are the values, know-how and abilities to work sustainably, putting harmony with nature at front and centre. This is what’s required to ensure that products and services are designed or adapted with our country’s net-zero goals in mind, with the aim of tackling man-made climate change.
To find out more, read our guide on what green skills are, and why it’s important to bring them to your business.
Unlocking green skills
Watch this interview to discover how TSW Training can empower you with the skills you need to future-proof your career, and drive change in the new sustainable economy.
The current state of green skills in the UK
When it comes to climate change, the stakes could barely be higher. According to a report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), our action over the next decade is crucial for ensuring the planet is liveable for generations to come.
This is why the government has a net zero target in place, which states that all businesses must help towards achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. And if we’re to hit our target, it’s clear that the UK needs an abundance of green-skilled workers to ensure that businesses’ and organisations’ practices are sustainable.
However, at the time of writing, there’s a dearth of green skills both in the UK and at a global level.
The Global Green Skills Report by LinkedIn has gathered data from its 930 million users across 48 countries to identify trends in green skills, and has found that demand is outpacing supply. Between 2022 and 2023, job postings requiring at least one green skill have risen by 22.4%. However, the share of green talent in the workforce has risen by 12.3%, meaning there’s a global shortfall in the market for green skills.
LinkedIn also found that only one in eight British workers possess green skills, such as climate-action planning or sustainable design. This is compared to one in seven workers in France, and one in six in Germany.
There are a number of reasons for the UK’s green talent shortage. As mentioned, the demand for green skills is growing faster than the supply. The upside to this is that it does mean the green economy is growing rapidly. High demand for skilled workers in sectors such as renewable energy, sustainable construction and environmental management – while not being met currently – is a positive sign for the future.
Another reason is that the UK hasn’t invested enough in green skills training. There are a fairly limited number of courses available in green skills, and these courses are often not well-funded. Of course, this makes it difficult for people to get the skills they need to work and flourish in the green economy.
Listen to our training experts on how your business can become more sustainable, in our green skills podcast
What is required to achieve net zero?
It’s clear that – to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 – the UK needs a significant increase in the number of green-skilled workers. The government has set a target of creating 2 million green jobs by 2030, which will require strong growth in a number of sectors.
Some of the most in-demand green skills in the UK include:
- Renewable energy. This is an increasingly important sector as we transition to a cleaner energy mix. Jobs in this sector include solar panel and installers, wind turbine technicians and battery storage engineers.
- Energy efficiency. This is also a necessity as businesses and homeowners look to reduce their energy consumption. Jobs in this sector include insulation installers, heat pump installers and energy auditors. Read some practical tips on how to make your business net zero.
- Environmental management. This sector includes a wide range of jobs related to protecting and conserving the environment. Jobs in this sector include ecologists, sustainability consultants and waste management specialists.
- Sustainable transport. To reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, we need to move towards a more sustainable transport system. Jobs in this sector include electric vehicle mechanics, public transport engineers and cycle safety officers.
This is just a taster of the many green skills in demand. And as the country continues to transition to a cleaner and more sustainable economy, the demand for green skills is only going to grow.
In addition to the specific skills listed above, you can read more about the general skills essential to green jobs here.
How will the next generation of workers be key to achieving net zero?
The next generation of workers will be at the very heart of hitting the country’s 2050 target. After all, they’ll be the ones developing and implementing the new technologies required to reduce emissions. For instance, they may develop new ways to capture and store carbon dioxide, or other as yet undiscovered renewable energy technologies.
There are already signs that Gen Z are more concerned about climate change and the environment. As such, they’ll be the ones driving demand for sustainable products and services. Plus they’ll be the ones to start new businesses that focus on sustainability, or gear existing businesses towards becoming more eco-friendly.
In addition, future workers will also be key to achieving net zero by:
- Providing a fresh perspective. This is the generation that’s grown up with climate change as a stark reality. As such, they’re open to new ideas and solutions, bringing a fresh perspective to the challenges of reducing emissions.
- Being more adaptable. Compared to previous generations, it seems fair to say that Gen Z will be more comfortable with new technologies and new ways of working. This will prove essential as the world transitions to a net-zero economy.
- Being more collaborative. It also seems likely that future workers will be better able to put differences aside and adopt a global mindset – working across different sectors and disciplines to solve problems.
How can we equip the next generation with green skills?
So how can we lay the groundwork for future workers to tackle the challenges ahead? Here are a few thoughts.
#1. Start early
Green skills can be taught at all levels of education, from primary school to university and beyond. In fact, the earlier children are exposed to green skills, the more interested they’re likely to be in pursuing a career in sustainability. We’ll return to this in a moment.
#2. Make green skills relevant
Green skills need to be relevant, with clear real-world applications. This means teaching students about the latest technologies and trends in sustainability, while also giving them the opportunity to get their hands dirty applying skills in legitimate, useful projects.
#3. Make green skills fun
Yes, we said the f-word. Learning about sustainability can and should be engaging and interesting. This could mean using a variety of teaching methods, such as gamification and simulations, in addition to hands-on activities.
#4. Provide financial support
The other f-word. There’s no shying away from it – certain skills can be expensive to learn. This is especially true for training in new technologies. National and local governments and businesses can help to make green skills more affordable by providing financial incentives for training  .
#5. Create a supportive environment
A supportive environment is essential for learning green skills. This means creating a culture where students and workers feel comfortable asking questions and taking risks. They should also have access to mentors and role models who can help them succeed.
#6. Education, education, education
Here are some ways in which green skills can be taught in different educational settings:
- Primary school. At primary ages, green skills can be taught through subjects such as science, geography, or art and design. For example, pupils could learn about the water cycle, different types of renewable energy, or practicable skills such as how to create a sustainable garden.
- Secondary school. From age eleven, green skills can be taught through more specialised subjects such as environmental science, engineering and business studies. For instance, pupils could learn about carbon capture and storage, the design of green buildings, or the marketing of sustainable products.
- University and college. For students, green skills can be taught through a variety of programs, including environmental science, sustainability and engineering. Students could learn about the latest technologies in sustainability, the economics of climate change, or the legal and policy aspects of sustainability.
- Online courses. There are a number of online courses that teach green skills. These courses are often affordable and can be completed at your own pace. In fact, we offer environmental management and sustainability training courses which can be completed in a classroom or virtually – depending on your preference and availability.
- Work experience. Internships and apprenticeships can help you gain hands-on experience in green jobs. This is a great way to learn about the latest technologies and trends in sustainability. View apprenticeships in Wales here.
As such, education offers numerous in-roads to learning green skills, and joining the fight against climate change.
Case Study: DS Smith
TSW Training recently worked with DS Smith to develop the skills and expertise they need to transition to a more sustainable future and thrive in the green economy.
James Nicholl, a trainer at TSW, has seen demand for these types of courses rise dramatically in recent years. He says: “Companies understand the value of training. They know it’s all well and good to have a grand vision for decarbonisation, but unless your staff are equipped with green skills, their strategies will not be achieved.”