Green skills training: Why it's essential to meet industry demands for a green workforce

As the world strives towards net zero goals, education providers and businesses are prioritising the development of green skills to prepare people for a growing number of green job opportunities.

11 July 2024

As governments and industries around the world accelerate the push towards net zero, creating a sufficiently skilled workforce is one of the most significant actions we can take to move towards a more sustainable economy.

To support this transition, educators and employers around the world are increasingly investing time and resource into developing green skills.

What are green skills?

Green skills is a collective term for the specific knowledge, abilities and values needed to promote the reduction of negative environmental impact in the workplace.

Green skills are now relevant to all sectors with organisations focusing on both the creation of new dedicated green roles, such as retrofitting and electrical vehicle charging installation, as well as embedding sustainability into existing roles through the development of skills like carbon literacy for everyone from accountants to marketing professionals. As countries around the world work towards net zero economies, having the right green skills will be essential for employers who have their own net zero targets, as well as striving to meet government guidelines which often have financial incentives attached.

In turn, training providers and colleges need to be prepared to deliver green skills training and qualifications to ensure individuals are equipped with the skills they need for jobs.

"There are the green skills that are going to touch the technology and make it happen, but there are also skills that can mobilise people and resources to get an agenda translated into action.”

– Dr Michael Cross, co-author of The Green Edge

Who needs green skills?

A common understanding of green skills is that they are solely relevant to more traditionally green industries such as the production of renewable energy and waste management and recycling. However, as we collectively focus more on our environmental impact, we are creating an employment market in which all jobs are becoming green jobs.

According to the pwc Green Jobs Barometer, green jobs are growing at around four times the rate of the overall UK job market. In order to be employable, green skills will soon be an entry level requirement for almost any role.

green skills training image 1Dr Michael Cross, co-author of The Green Edge – a subscription newsletter aimed at teachers and education providers involved in green skills development – explains these skills are for everyone, no matter their job title: “There are the green skills that are going to touch the technology and make it happen, but there are also those skills at local level, often in local authorities, that can mobilise people and resources to get an agenda translated into action.”

In the UK, for example, Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs) – a government initiative that identify skills gaps and priorities by region – highlight the need for green skills across the board, with all 38 regions targeting increased commitment to the development of these skills. This presence of green skills on the priority list means that training providers across the UK will be working with councils and local employers to offer the green skills solutions that can close this growing skills gap.

Ultimately, green skills are becoming increasingly desirable for employers across the board as companies look for ways to be greener, wanting to comply with new regulations, take advantage of tax breaks and appeal to their target audience. While those who are self-employed don’t face the same pressure from a manager or recruitment team, competing for customers is now creating its own pressure as companies and individuals work to ensure the sustainability of their supply chains.

How can we upskill and re-train workforces for green jobs?

According to statistics included in the LinkedIn Global Green Skills Report 2023 only one in eight workers globally has one or more green skills, a proportion that looks likely to become increasingly restrictive as the number of green skills required for both traditionally and non-traditionally green jobs continues to grow.

If we want to ensure that we have the talent available to meet the increasing green demand, effective training needs to be made both available and attractive to as many people as possible. Governments and educational organisations need to work with industry experts to create courses and qualifications that suit the needs of employers and employees in every sector and at every level.

“We want to futureproof ourselves but more importantly we want to futureproof our learners.”

– Shane Carter, Head of Quality, Compliance and Curriculum, BuildSkill

Why embedding green skills is becoming a strategic priority for providers

The biggest reason to support the development of green skills for learners is the potentially critical impact on the climate crisis, but it is also a vital part of delivering the skills development solutions that learners and employers are looking for.

Training providers and colleges who are meeting the demand for green skills by offering new and updated programmes to their learners are already seeing success.

green skills training image 2Specialist bricklaying training provider BuildSkill have always prioritised building a training offer that meets learner and employer needs. In 2024 this means offering retrofitting qualifications, teaching learners the skills they need to upgrade existing buildings and make them more energy efficient. While it’s early days, the course is proving popular among the training provider’s learners with good uptake.

BuildSkill’s Head of Quality, Compliance and Curriculum, Shane Carter, explains the reasoning behind the decision to integrate City & Guilds retrofitting qualifications into the curriculum: “We want to futureproof ourselves but more importantly we want to futureproof our learners, so we need to deliver training that develops not just the skills that employers are looking for now but also the skills that they are going to need in the future.”

In Burton and South Derbyshire College, a combination of the college’s green targets and local employer needs influenced their choice to introduce hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle training. The college’s Strategic Development Fund Manager, Lisa Taylor shares: “Sustainability is one of our strategic goals, and funding from the Department for Education played a big part as did the Skills Development Fund project which involved employers looking at their skill gaps to give us some direction. Working with employers has really fuelled us to embrace new technologies to educate young people into the workplace.”

“Working with employers has really fuelled us to embrace new technologies to educate young people into the workplace.”

– Lisa Taylor, Strategic Development Fund Manager, Burton and South Derbyshire College

Working towards net zero together

At City & Guilds we are committed to both reaching our own net zero targets and supporting the providers, employers and organisations we work with to reach theirs. No investment is more important than the one we need to be prepared to make in our planet and everyone has a role to play.

To meet net zero goals green skills will need to be developed in every sector and at every career stage. Providers, awarding organisations and employers will need to develop, deliver and support programmes and qualifications that prepare learners for green jobs today and in the future.

For this to happen, we need a talent pool of skilled individuals working across both green industries and sectors that have not traditionally held green credentials, and a collective commitment to the continued development of green skills.

Explore City & Guilds green skills qualifications and programmes