Skills for a green economy
The Government is committed to supporting the transition to a strong and sustainable green economy, in which value and growth are maximised across the whole economy, while natural assets are managed sustainably.
The transition to a green economy requires a workforce with the right skills. This includes not only skills in the low carbon and environmental goods and services sector, but also those needed to help all businesses use natural resources efficiently and sustainably and to be resilient to climate change.
Skills for Sustainable Growth, the Government’s skills strategy for England, covered skills across the whole of the economy, including green skills and sustainable development. Through that strategy, the Government has developed a demand-led model which will deliver the skills training required by businesses and individuals. Supported by £3.9 billion of Government investment and a commitment to deliver over 360,000 apprenticeships this year, it is a system that is led not by government but by employers, through their representative bodies like Sector Skills Councils and as individuals.
Identifying necessary skills
Recommendations in the skills strategy led to a project to identify the skills needed to support the transition to a green economy, and to assess the evidence for employer demand and how the skills system can deliver the necessary skills. A supplementary report Skills for a green economy: a report on the evidence was consequently published in October 2011, mapping out the possible skills needs and gaps across different sectors. The report also supplements information relating to skills published as part of Enabling the Transition to a Green Economy in August 2011.
Skills for a green economy stresses that all businesses – from small owner-managed companies to large service businesses – should be thinking about the generic skills required to use resources efficiently and sustainably. However, the evidence suggests that businesses in general are uncertain about their future green skills needs, though some sectors – including energy generation, the construction industry and the food and agriculture sectors – identify specific skills needs.
Addressing the shortage of green skills
Recognising that skill shortages cannot be addressed simply through government intervention, and that employers are better placed to identify their needs, the Government follows a demand-led model in which businesses identify and articulate the skills they need, and further education (FE) colleges and training providers supply that need. The aim is to put learners and employers in the driving seat, giving them the support, funding and information to make the right choices and to help employers shape the skills system.
State funding is provided where market failures or barriers are most acute, but even there it is considered best for employers to direct what is wanted. This is based on the understanding that business knows best what skills and competency levels it needs to succeed.
Government has created institutions and policies to help shape both demand and supply to ensure green skills needs are met, such as seed funding through the £50m per annum Growth and Innovation Fund. The first round of the Growth and Innovation Fund is providing specific support to green skills with the establishment of:
- A Renewables Training Network by RenewableUK, to tackle the shortage of skilled workers in green energy industries. The network will create 2,000 places on training courses specifically tailored to those wanting to make the transition into the renewable energy sector, focusing particularly on mature skilled workers wishing to retrain.
- A Talent Bank for the gas, power, waste management and water industries by Energy & Utility Skills to provide a skills brokerage service, a vacancy matching service and launch a voluntary levy. This will create 400 new Apprenticeship places and support the training of 400 high skilled technicians by 2014.
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills will be needed to make the transition to a green economy, in key energy and advanced manufacturing sectors and more widely across the economy, to lower carbon emissions and make better use of resources. The STEM pipeline is improving at all levels but more needs to be done to continue this push, and improve the relevance of what students learn. Many (up to 50%) of STEM graduates choose not to work in STEM occupations. While this is a valid choice, more can be done to raise the profile of a range of STEM occupations.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn Statement 2011 contained several measures to improve STEM provision, including investment of £10m over five years from 2013-14 in Project Enthuse, matched by investment from the Wellcome Trust, to improve the quality of science teaching in schools. Offering undergraduates access to mentoring support drawn from the existing network of STEM Ambassadors to give undergraduates insight into STEM occupations and raise the profile of the STEM sector.
Additionally, Sector Skills Councils with support from the CBI will lead an industry group to ‘kitemark’ the courses they value, so individuals are confident that signals about future growth and career opportunities are credible.
Helping business plan for the future
Skills for a green economy describes further actions that will support the Government in encouraging businesses in England to plan for the future:
- Bringing together a new ‘skills for a green economy’ grouping of Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) in order to understand changing requirements more thoroughly and to communicate this to businesses, skills providers and individuals thinking through their long term career choices. The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), which has as a priority to galvanise employer action on skills, will support this;
- Improving the quality of information, advice and guidance available on careers in a green economy, together with information on the skills linked to the green economy that will be needed in the future, through the new National Careers Service to be launched in April 2012;
- Improving the quality of skills provision in the Further Education (FE) system. The Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) will work with the sector to develop and improve the quality of green skills provision across the sector, and the Institute for Learning (IfL) will support teachers and trainers to include green skills more in teaching;
- Raising awareness and understanding of the green economy through the work of Unionlearn to support lifelong learning among the workforce;
- Continuing to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills as a priority for the green economy at least as much as for the economy as a whole;
- Making available funding for up to 1,000 Apprenticeship places for the Green Deal, subject to take-up by businesses.
- Skills for a green economy: a report on the evidence;
- Skills for Sustainable Growth: the Government’s skills strategy for England;
- Enabling the Transition to a Green Economy: government and business working together: setting out what the transition to a green economy means for businesses;
- Green economy, green business: Defra’s work to support a strong and sustainable green economy, resilient to climate change.
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