Duncan Brown, Senior Economist, Emsi UK

Current Green Jobs 

For all the talk about the transformation of the economy to meet the challenges of Net Zero, the number of green jobs in the UK economy is relatively small and stable. According to the latest release Low carbon and renewable energy economy (LCREE) published by the ONS, there were around 202,000 full-time equivalent jobs in the sector in 2019, with no significant change since the Office for National Statistics started measuring it in 2014.

Current Green Businesses

The ONS survey around 25,000 workplaces each year to ask them about the ‘green’ nature of their business. That’s necessary because the demands of Net Zero don’t really feature in the Standard Industrial Classification, the main way we classify the economy into different sectors. Even categorising workplaces in this way doesn’t result in quite the dynamic Net Zero economy we might be hoping for, with little hint of a green industrial revolution just yet.

Green Jobs in All Sectors, Existing Jobs needing Green Skills

Certain sectors of the economy can be classified as green – such as agriculture and energy – and these green sectors will have green jobs. But perhaps the Net Zero revolution goes beyond green jobs in green sectors to green jobs in all sectors. Similarly, the Net Zero revolution goes beyond the creation of green jobs in all sectors to existing jobs needing green skills.

Job Greenification

To test the hypothesis of job greenification in terms of both more green job roles and more jobs requiring green skills we cannot just rely on traditional labour market information because we’re focusing on subtler questions.

Rising Demand for Green Jobs

More granular data is available via the Job Posting Analytics data held by Emsi which has around 50 million unique job ads recorded on the internet since 2016.

Using our job title library, 365 different green job titles - ranging from recycler to solar analyst to sustainability manager – have been identified. As we’re looking at the individual job level, these roles can exist within dedicated green workplaces, but also in factories and offices in traditional industries. Even so, they are all explicitly green jobs.

There are around 139,000 job ads within these titles since 2016. In contrast to ONS data which is based on green-focused workplaces, here we see more much extensive growth in green jobs. Between 2016 and 2019, recruitment demand jumped by 35 per cent growth in recruitment demand from 2016 to 2019.

The impact of Covid-19 put a dampener on demand for green jobs in 2020 as it did elsewhere. But we are seeing that recruitment demand in 2021 isn’t just recovering or returning to trend – it is accelerating. In the first four months of 2021, recruitment demand was 29 per cent up on the same period in 2019. Leading the charge have been job ads in roles concerned with renewable energy (up 55% since the start of 2016), followed by technical environmental work (up 50%) and environmental health and safety (20%). While some jobs are more likely to be temporary – in conservation or education – overall green jobs are no more temporary than the wider labour market (22% non-permanent for green jobs versus 21% generally).

Further information on green jobs can be found via Open Skills library provided by Emsi. Using the same family of job titles, over 100 items can be identified, ranging from ISO 14000 to soil science to marine conservation. Looking for all job ads with these sorts of skills, we have over 1.1 million job ads -- nearly ten times as many as for explicitly ‘green’-titled jobs, showing that while green jobs are growing, more and more jobs have environmental responsibilities. Again, growth is robust: 215,000 job ads in 2016 rising to 273,000 in 2019, growth of 27 per cent over those three years.

Rising Demand for Green Skills in Existing Jobs

Demand is also rising for existing jobs needing green skills. Jobs needing green skills are in no way confined to explicitly environmental job titles. For example, jobs needing green skills includes jobs titled as engineering technicians, metal production workers, civil engineers and business development managers. Even though it is true that green-titled jobs are growing, by far the largest part of demand seems to be in adding new green skills to jobs well established in our economy.

Sources of Rising Demand for Green Jobs and Green Skills in Existing Jobs

In fact, there is an overlap of rising demand for green jobs and demand for green skills in existing jobs. Any industry using significant amounts of energy and raw materials is likely to see demands for green skills as well as green jobs. Consequently, despite commentary that the transition to Net Zero will mean the creation of high-skilled and high-quality jobs, the demand for green skills takes place at many skill levels – yes, some graduate level jobs but also many at lower and intermediate skill levels; 49% of green skills needs are advertised in roles typically requiring a degree, compared to 44% of job adverts in general.

Future Demand

These data give a sense that understanding the emerging Net Zero economy, especially as it creates jobs and skills demands in the labour market, requires patience. Such a sweeping change, with far-reaching implications for many sectors requires not just the creation of new industries, but the seeding of expertise within many of our existing industries. Policy makers will need to think long and hard about how best they can ensure that the labour market can adapt to these new demands.

Recommendation 1

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy alongside the Department for Work and Pensions, and Department for Education must develop labour market and skills intelligence which captures both the demand for green skills in existing job roles as well as demand for more green jobs.

Recommendation 2

DBEIS, DWP and DfE should monitor both the roles being hired and the skills being hired, and how these vary by industry and region to assess underlying green labour market demands.

Recommendation 3

The government must develop a post-16 education and skills strategy which ensures green skills can complement current skills in existing jobs as well as training and retraining for green jobs.

Duncan Brown, Senior Economist, Emsi UK

Defining the Green Economy from a labour market perspective - Free Webinar 23rd June 2021 

To help facilitate this understanding, Emsi will be hosting a free webinar on 23rd June, where they'll be defining the Green Economy from a labour market perspective, looking at how data can help organisations identify the scale of the green sector within their area, including demand for jobs and skills, and economic value.

EMSI Green Economy Event Banner Info

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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