As global temperatures rise, the demand for green skills is also expected to increase. A positive step towards net zero is ensuring young people are equipped with the green skills employers need to be competitive in a sustainable economy.
But… what are green skills?
Broadly speaking, green skills are the skills needed to support green economic growth that reduces the UK’s carbon emissions. This can range from technical green skills such as construction, engineering or manufacturing to more general skills such as project management, change management, leadership, education management and communication skills which are important for a range of careers including those related to combating climate change.
Unfortunately, the supply of green skills does not currently match the growing demand. A new study by the Learning and Work Institute, supported by WorldSkills UK, has found that almost three in five employers who currently need or are likely to need green skills believe there are green skills gaps in their organisations. These gaps are bad for business. In most cases, employers who identify green skills gaps in their organization struggle to achieve net zero targets; Cope with rising energy costs; keep up with technological changes; and remain competitive in their field. For the UK to thrive alongside other green economies on the global stage, these gaps need to be filled.
Why is there a green skills gap?
There are several reasons why this gap exists. A major reason is the lack of women in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professions, an umbrella under which many green skills and careers lie.
It’s no secret that STEM careers are male dominated – only 13% of the total UK STEM workforce are women. The resulting problems are clearly visible in the automotive industry, which is currently struggling to fill its electric vehicle technical positions. This is partly due to the industry’s reputation as a male-dominated field, which discourages women from entering. Making the most of all the talent on offer could help fill these gaps.
Emma Carrigy of the Institute of the Motor Industry made a clear connection between the industry’s current recruitment challenges and its lack of gender diversity:
“The sector faces the biggest skills challenge of the past two decades. With currently a record number of job openings across the industry and tasked with fulfilling the new skills required to meet the green agenda, this is certainly a challenging time. Creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce is one way to address this issue, as well as providing support and training to empower the workforce to meet government climate commitments.”
Expanding access to STEM subjects to more women would help close the green skills gap. But our research has shown that women do not have the information on how to acquire green skills and embark on a green career. We found that young women are more likely than young men to say they don’t understand what green jobs are available (48 percent of women vs. 40 percent of men), don’t know how to acquire green skills (47 percent of women versus 33 percent of men) and do not understand what green skills employers need (44 percent of women versus 38 percent of men).
What can we do against it?
Despite this knowledge gap, young women are excited about developing green skills and are passionate about green careers. The same study found that women are more likely than men to say they feel inspired to pursue a green career because they want to fight climate change (75 percent of women compared to 67 percent of men), and they find green skills and the prospect of a green career interesting (42 percent of women compared to 32 percent of men).
To reach the government’s net-zero goal, we need to see more women pursue STEM jobs, with employers capitalizing on young women’s enthusiasm for green jobs and careers. This could help narrow the green skills gap and help the UK reach its net-zero targets.
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