From education to employment

Filling Green Jobs with Level 2+ Apprenticeships

Jane Hickie, Chief Executive, Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP)

The Rise of Apprenticeships, the Rise of a Net Zero 

Modern Apprenticeships were introduced in England in 1994. John Major was Prime Minister leading a Conservative Government. Veteran rocker Neil Young was writing songs about the ozone layer.

Employers started talking about the world becoming ‘carbon neutral’.

Today, we just call our flagship employer skills programme Apprenticeships and employers should be aiming to be net zero instead of premises being Part L compliant.

The point is that none of this is new.

Climate change has become a more obvious challenge and potentially even more damaging.

Apprenticeships are part of the critical post-16 education and skills response to it.

New Entrants and Existing Employees filling Green Jobs

Apprenticeships are jobs and so they have the potential to fill green jobs as they arise. In turn, green apprenticeships can be filled by new entrants – especially young people – but also but existing employees – usually older workers. As such, filling green jobs with apprenticeships can help to embed a net zero culture within organisations.

Future Jobs, Future Apprenticeships

Future demand for apprenticeships will involve the eye-catching jobs such as offshore wind engineers and project managers but we should be equally aware that in sectors like rail, greening of existing roles as opposed to new green jobs will be normal. For example, the digitisation of the railways will provide green jobs as it will make the network more efficient.

One key message from employers is that the demand will not just be met from recruiting new apprentices. Firms will need to take advantage of apprenticeships being for all ages and to upskill existing members of the workforce.

A Big Role

Bearing in mind these advantages to the Net Zero agenda of green apprenticeships, it is also important to ask how big a role apprenticeships can play in the green agenda. Our view at AELP is very large indeed.

In November 2020, the government promised £4bn worth of investment to stimulate private sector co-investment to help create 250,000 green jobs. Most of these jobs will be found in the manufacturing, energy supply and construction sectors, accounting for 82% of turnover and 74% of employment although infrastructure and electric vehicle manufacture are starting to make an impact.

Demand for Level 2 and 3 as well as Level 4+ Apprenticeships

It is important for the government to recognise that employers are demanding green jobs which require Level 2 and Level 3 apprenticeships and not just Level 4+. Apprenticeships are being used to train plumbers, electricians and ventilation and heating engineers, as well as engineering professionals, environment professionals and finance and investment analysts.

Green Jobs Taskforce and Apprenticeships

The government has established a Green Jobs Taskforce between the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Education to develop an action plan for creating the necessary new green jobs and skills. An important task is to define whether green jobs require training at Level 2 and Level 3 relative to Level 4+ and for each determine where apprenticeships can help employers meet their needs.

Level 4+ Apprenticeships

A major attraction for apprentices on a work-based learning programme where employers are investing in new technologies and equipment all the time is that they can be more up to date on the required skills compared with, say, many university students who are learning on kit which might be 10 to 15 years old. But this presents two major challenges to IfATE and its panel. The higher level green apprenticeships can last three years and the relevant standards need to be able to respond to technological changes during that period.

Updating Apprenticeship Standards

As we move forward, we can anticipate demand for research and development skills and environmental impact skills as part of a broader range of skills that will be needed to respond to the emergence of new green technologies. In this context, it is very encouraging that the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) has set up a Green Apprenticeships Advisory Panel to advise on what new apprenticeship standards might be needed. The panel works closely with the Green Jobs Taskforce.

Role of Qualifications

Another challenge relates to the rather odd and confusing stance that the government has taken on qualifications within an apprenticeship ever since standards were first mooted after the Richard review in 2012. Ministers started off by saying that recognised qualifications should be excluded from standards altogether and then had to back off when the employers on the trailblazers voiced strong objections. But a debate, which is very relevant to Green Apprenticeships, has begun again on the role of qualifications, whether they should be mandated and whether there is more of a role for credentialing like we see for example in nursing. With green technologies advancing so rapidly, there is a question over whether qualifications still offer a good proxy for assessing competence.

Green Apprenticeships for Women

For the first time, women now account for more apprenticeship starts than men but when it comes to green apprenticeships, much more needs to be done, especially at technician level. Apprenticeship recruitment also needs to reflect more of our diverse population. A point often made is that branding jobs as engineering puts off young women and the use of terminology for green apprenticeships requires careful consideration to help employers and apprenticeship providers market opportunities to students in schools and colleges.

Recommendation 1

In the context of the work by the Green Jobs Taskforce, the government needs to recognise the demand for Green Jobs requiring upskilling and reskilling at Level 2 and 3 through apprenticeships as well Level 4+ apprenticeships.

Recommendation 2

The government must review the value of mandated qualifications within an apprenticeship standard as green technologies potentially outpace the context of qualifications.

Recommendation 3

The government must set out a Green Apprenticeship Strategy for Women to extend participation in apprenticeships from Level 2 to Level 5 and beyond.

Jane Hickie, Chief Executive, Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP)

Racing to Net Zero – the role of post-16 education and skills

The UK needs comprehensive jobs and skills plan to successfully support and drive the transition to Net Zero.  

This is the conclusion of Campaign for Learning on publishing a new collection of expert views – Racing to Net Zero – the role of post-16 education and skills,

This pamphlet brings together experts on Net Zero and post-16 education, skills and employment policy. The sixteen contributors offer real insights about how post-16 education and skills policy can support the race to Net Zero here in the UK.

Contributors to Racing to Net Zero:

Shaun Spiers, Green Alliance Greening the Economy, Greening the Environment
Stephen Evans, Learning and Work Institute A more ambitious Net Zero ‘Economic, Jobs and Skills’ Plan
Paul Nowak, TUC Workers, Skills and the Net Zero Economy
Duncan Brown, Emsi The Demand for Green Jobs and Green Skills
Ewart Keep, University of Oxford Labour Market Intelligence for Green Jobs and Green Skills
Jane Hickie, AELP Filling Green Jobs with Level 2+ Apprenticeships
Calum Carson, ERSA Filling Green Jobs through Employment Support Schemes
David Hughes, Association of Colleges FE Colleges, Upskilling, Reskilling and Net Zero
Susan Pember, HOLEX Adult and Community Education and Net Zero
Nick Hillman, HEPI Universities and Net Zero
Bill Watkin, Six Form Colleges Association 16-18 Education and Net Zero
John Widdowson, Former FE Principal 16-18 Level 3 T Levels and Net Zero
Rebecca Conway, Federation of Awarding Bodies Net Zero and the ‘Level 3 and Below’ Curriculum
Charlotte Bonner, Education and Training Foundation Education for Sustainable Development and the FE Workforce
Adrian Anderson, UVAC Green Jobs, Apprenticeships and Higher Technical Education
Victoria Hands and Stephen Peake, The Open University Education for Sustainable Development in Higher Education

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