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We need to accelerate the green jobs agenda through concrete action

Rhian Kelly, Director at National Grid and Member of the Green Jobs Taskforce
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A post-pandemic world which focuses on a green recovery and building back better presents a huge opportunity to reset the economy and unlock hundreds of thousands of skilled and purpose-led green jobs in the coming years. At the same time, the Government is making a number of ambitious commitments to tackle climate change – this will require the right people in place with the right capabilities to deliver. To achieve this, we need to start taking action now if we’re to successfully build a workforce that can tackle climate change.

The UK government has called for two million green jobs by 2050

The UK government has called for two million green jobs by 2050 which will help different sectors transition to low-carbon models and contribute to the environmental goals. National Grid research shows that the energy industry alone needs to recruit 400,000 jobs by 2050, with 120,000 of these needed between now and 2030, if the UK is to meet its net zero target. These jobs will range from civil, mechanical and electrical engineers, to data analysts, machine learning experts and skilled tradespeople as well as new roles linked to electric vehicles, hydrogen and carbon capture.

This won’t happen overnight and will take planning and tangible measures to achieve meaningful progress. The Green Jobs Taskforce set out to map the policies and actions needed to be undertaken to maximise the green jobs opportunity and has today published its recommendations on key steps within the next 12 months that can help plug the UK’s green skills gap. Working alongside business, trade unions and academia on the Taskforce, we’ve identified actions that can have a real impact on building the net zero workforce the UK needs.

The importance of this agenda and the work needed to accelerate progress should not be underestimated. But we’re confident we can get there with a fully collaborative approach across government, industry, trade unions and the education sector that focuses on: critical investment in net zero to support good quality green jobs; building pathways into green careers for people from all backgrounds; and ensuring that workers and communities dependent on the high-carbon economy are supported with the transition.  

Building pathways into good green careers

We need to think about how we plug the green skills gap in the long-term. These can’t be temporary or short-term roles but rather lifelong pathways into green careers which are accessible to all people from all backgrounds. There’s a really important role that responsible and purpose-led organisations like National Grid can play in leading the way on recruiting a diverse net zero workforce.

For example, Grid for Good, an energy industry programme led by National Grid, aims to support socio-economically disadvantaged young people aged 16-25, such as ex-offenders, those recently unemployed or with low educational attainment, through training and employment opportunities in the energy sector.

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There’s a real opportunity here to harness a broader range of experiences and existing skills, looking at how these can be refocused towards the green agenda. Raising awareness and increasing engagement are vital components of this and a green careers marketing campaign should be launched to support this.

To address future and current skills gaps, there must also be a greater emphasis on how we engage with diverse young people right across the curriculum as this will enable the UK to build a strong talent pipeline for green jobs. As part of our efforts at National Grid, we’ve partnered with under-represented talent specialists MyKindaFuture to encourage more young people to consider science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. Over five years, the aim is to reach 100,000 diverse and underrepresented young people across South London that are impacted National Grid’s £1 billion London Power Tunnels project to rewire the capital, developing their employability skills and encouraging careers in STEM.

Driving investment in net zero to support good quality green jobs in the UK

We can’t afford to miss out on the economic opportunity that net zero presents which means we need a comprehensive and ambitious plan that drives demand for high quality green jobs and investment in skills. To deliver this plan and keep up momentum, we also need a UK-wide body that can ensure the green jobs plan is inclusive and reaches all corners of society, and to coordinate activity, with support from government, industry and local bodies.

A just transition for workers in the high-carbon economy

No one should be left behind in this transition. Building on the Skills for Jobs White Paper, industry, government, and skills providers should together ensure that the adult skills system can meet the challenge of the transition to net zero. This includes being responsive to local demand and supporting workers in high-carbon sectors so that they transfer their skills and take on different opportunities in the new economy.

Next steps

The scale and pace of action needed couldn’t be clearer. With ambitious climate change targets to meet and a significant economic opportunity within our grasp, it’s critical that any decisions on the green jobs agenda are underpinned by concrete and tangible action, and that the Green Jobs Taskforce report is acted upon with urgency. 

Rhian Kelly, Director at National Grid and Member of the Green Jobs Taskforce

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