From education to employment

Jobless youths should form the vanguard of the net zero jobs bonanza, says major think-tank

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Britain’s growing army of jobless school leavers should be drafted into the front line of the nation’s drive towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050, according to a new report, “Better Insulate than Never”, by a major independent think-tank.

The number of male NEETs (young people Not in Education, Employment or Training) looking for work is rising at the fastest rate on record under the impact of stagflation. The number of young men on the sidelines has risen by 56,000 in the last quarter, bringing the national total to nearly a quarter of a million.

The report from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), supported by the Greener Futures Partnership, argues that making the nation’s homes more energy efficient, essential to realising the UK’s net zero targets, will trigger a huge rise in the demand for labour in coming years.  Figures from the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group suggest that bringing all homes up to EPC rating C would support nearly 130,000 jobs in housing retrofit in England.  With low barriers to entry, many of these jobs can be filled by youngsters.

The CSJ report comes on the heels of Rishi Sunak’s decision to change the transition to net zero, while committing to still meeting the 2050 target.  It argues that by drafting underprivileged youngsters into the vanguard of delivering the decarbonisation programme it can kill three birds with one stone: boosting employment and living standards; realising its levelling up ambitions; and hitting its ambitious target without imposing politically unacceptable costs on society.

In the foreword to the Report, Labour Shadow Minister for Energy Security, Alan Whitehead MP, says:

“Green plumbing needs both the plumbing itself and the plumbers to work. We are as a country falling far behind in the race not just to create green jobs but to populate them with the green skills necessary to make the plumbing work.”

This would play perfectly into the Levelling Up agenda, creating well paid new employment opportunities for left behind regions outside London and the South East.

The CSJ insists it is not demanding a big increase in state spending. Money already spent by the Government should be made to work harder – delivering decarbonisation while spreading prosperity across the country.

Original polling included in the report finds that business bosses are optimistic about the economic opportunities of net zero. The report also finds, however, that business leaders lack confidence in Government’s ability to deliver on these opportunities, with just 42 per cent saying the UK is prepared for the ‘economy of the future’.

The CSJ insists that skills and job training, such as quality apprenticeships, are critical to a ‘win-win’ agenda of creating new jobs while cleaning up the environment – all at relatively low cost to the taxpayer.

After the shock of the Uxbridge by-election, where a voter backlash against the Mayor of London’s ULEZ zone challenged the green agenda, the CSJ argues that its potential economic benefits need to be spread more widely.

It says: “An appropriately skilled workforce is central to realising these benefits.  While the Government readily talks of ‘green skills’, has established a ‘green skills taskforce’ and set a target of creating 2 million green jobs by 2030, concrete policy lags behind.

“This report, therefore, drills into the practicalities of a specific issue: the decarbonisation of social homes.  This will not only be critical to meeting legally binding emissions targets but also promises to ease cost of living pressures and support quality, sustainable employment with low barriers to entry, making it a key mechanism for spreading the benefits of decarbonisation to lower income communities.

Mr Whitehead adds in his foreword: “We need an economic strategy that puts green skills and jobs at its heart and successfully pushes the opportunities our net zero imperative offers, whilst successfully navigating the dangers we will encounter. This report is an interesting and timely contribution to the policy debate, and I hope the Government sits up and takes notice.”

Rose Bean, Executive Committee chair for the Greener Futures Partnership, a consortium of five of the largest housing associations in the country, agreed.

She said: “The CSJ report not only highlights the benefits that the decarbonisation of social homes will bring to the Greener Futures Partnership’s (GFP) 600,000 customers, but offers up tangible solutions to tackle the patent skills gap, as well as the economic inequalities across significant parts of the country.”

Jess Prestidge, Deputy Policy Director at the CSJ, said:

“Delivering our Net Zero targets depends on decarbonising our housing stock, which in turn depends on training up a whole new workforce with new skills.  It’s a great opportunity to create new jobs in left behind communities which can be started immediately to benefit us in the long term.”

The CSJ calls on the Government to work hand in glove with business to make the most of net zero. Its recommendations include:

  • Reorienting the skills system towards the green economy, including via green apprenticeships;
  • Ensuring the UK Infrastructure Bank is equipped to support retrofit at scale;
  • Delivering a refreshed modern Industrial strategy that has net zero at its core.

  • NEET figures come from the latest ONS release. See ONS, Young people not in education, employment or training (NEET), UK, August 2023, link.

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