Government glosses over MP’s recommendations for strengthening green jobs plans

MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) published a report in October detailing a series of moves Ministers should take to close the green skills gap and create more skilled, well-paid jobs in the low-carbon sectors that will enable the nation’s net-zero transition.

That report, published after an in-depth inquiry, pointed out that the Net Zero Strategy only details plans to support the creation of 440,000 new jobs by 2030 and that the Government does not have an official definition for a “green job”. The report also questioned whether the Government is taking a joined-up approach to the issue, working across departments and tackling skills and education at all stages of life and career seniority.

The Government has this week published its response to the report and, for most of the recommendations, has not confirmed any additional actions to be taken in the short term.

The response provides no set deadline for firming up a definition of the term “green job”, for example, and also argues that the Government does not need to create a separate delivery body for its 2030 green jobs goal, as it has already convened the Green Jobs Taskforce. The Taskforce was set up in 2020 and comprises representatives from businesses, trade bodies and NGOs. It has virtually no powers to hold the Government to account.

Additionally, the response glosses over the EAC’s recommendation that a National Nature Service should be launched as a pilot by the end of 2022. Such a scheme would support conservation organisation to employ those struggling with unemployment and young people claiming for Universal Credit, thereby building their skillsets and delivering shovel-ready projects that contribute to Britain’s long-term biodiversity and climate goals. The idea first gained traction in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic in spring 2020, but Chancellor Rishi Sunak has repeatedly failed to confirm funding.

Specifically, the response stipulates that the £80m Green Recovery Fund overseen by the Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) is a sufficient alternative, when combined with an upcoming ‘Youth Environmental Service’, that will help marginalised young people work in paid, full-time nature-related roles for a year. The Green Recovery Fund was initially set to be £40m but was doubled after it was hugely oversubscribed.

Lessons learned?

MPs on the EAC have expressed particular disappointment that Ministers will not be picking up its key recommendations on education.

For primary and secondary school pupils, the response argues that “topics related to climate change and the environment are already included within the citizenship, science and geography national curricula”, and that “many schools” are going beyond the key teaching requirements in this space. It fails to confirm any changes other than those already floated in the draft Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy for education, published at COP26.

Also shelved were the EAC’s recommendations on better supporting primary and secondary pupils to connect with nature.

Beyond secondary school, the EAC had recommended that the Government ensured the inclusion of specific, sustainability-related content on all apprenticeship and T-Level courses.

The Government’s response shelves this recommendation. It states: “Apprenticeships and T-Levels are based on occupational standards, which describe the specific knowledge, skills and behaviour required to be competent in the occupation and support entry into skilled employment. Therefore, we do not believe that a generic sustainability module across every occupational standard is appropriate.

“Sustainability elements are included where occupationally relevant.”

EAC chair Philip Dunne MP has called the Government’s response to its report “disappointing”.

He said: “When we published our report in October, we expressed concern that the Government’s grand ambitions to deliver two million green jobs lacked policy detail. This is sadly borne out in the response. Government departments lack a central coordination function to deliver green jobs policies. The national curriculum is not embedding environmental sustainability nor even restoring the teaching of nature into schools as we had recommended.  

“This Government’s current piecemeal approach to green jobs does not give the confidence boost to those industrial sectors that will require, and need to develop, the green skills of the future.”

Last week, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) revealed the results of a survey of 619 educational providers and 1,198 people working in chemistry-related careers, to garner their views on the current state of green skills and the teaching of climate-related skills. It found that most do not think the climate and environment-related content currently on curriculums is good enough to support students into further study or related careers.

Sarah George

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