Report: UK green jobs set to be better-paid than roles in high-carbon industries

Achieving the benefits forecast in the report will require further investment in incentives for learners and employers

That is according to a new report from thinktank Onward, entitled ‘Qualifying for the Race to Net-Zero’ and published today (5 July).

The report outlines how 3.2 million workers will need to “boost their skills” if the UK is to meet its 2050 net-zero target. This figure covers upskilling and retraining. Among the sectors most affected, the report states, are construction and transportation, where 30% and 26% of workers respectively will need upskilling.

While the size of the skills gap is significant, the report outlines how closing it will benefit individuals and the economy as well as the UK’s record on climate action. It states that the average full-time net-zero job, at present, pays £37,190 per annum – 18% higher than the national average and 30% higher than jobs in current carbon-intensive industries.

The report does state that certain regions are likely to see more job creation and a bigger boost to wages than others – but that these regions, at present, are some of those facing the UK’s highest levels of unemployment. Locations set to disproportionately benefit from net-zero are the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, largely due to work to transition industrial clusters and manufacturing hubs in these areas. Locations set to create fewer roles than the average include London and the South East.

The UK’s current overarching green jobs target is growing low-carbon and nature sectors to cover two million full-time-equivalent roles by 2030. But it is not on track to meet that aim and Onward, like many other groups in the green economy, has voiced support for updated policies, particularly in the wake of Covid-19.

Onward’s report today recommends that the Department for Education develops new apprenticeship standards, T Levels and degree apprenticeships to support people into entry-level roles in net-zero areas and to upskill existing workers. It also floats the creation of net-zero academies – schools with specialisms in the regions which currently have a high portion of jobs in high-carbon industries.

But apprenticeships and engaging schoolchildren, Onward argues, do not go far enough. The report states that people working in net-zero jobs have, on average, qualification levels that are 24% higher than those working in carbon-intensive sectors or businesses. It recommends that the Government, therefore, funds at least 2,800 net-zero-aligned PhDs, to support more senior domestic engineering expertise.

On the business side, the report recommends the creation of a ‘Green Human Capital Tax Credit’ that would incentivise and support businesses to invest in upskilling employees – particularly if they have had to cut skills and training funding due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The taskforce for Onward’s ‘Getting to Zero’ programme, of which the new report is a part, includes representatives from the likes of RenewableUK, the Energy Systems Catapult, Aviva, Prospect Union and the Conservative Environment Network.

Taskforce member Gareth Davies MP said: “We face a titanic challenge to upskill the UK workforce for the net-zero transition. As this report by Onward shows, we desperately need to increase the level of technical expertise across the country if we are to realise our emissions targets. If we get this right, the green transition can also be a tool for upward social mobility, as green jobs are better paid and often more resilient than other careers. “

The Onward report comes after the Office For National Statistics (ONS) published research finding that more than 800,000 job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic in the UK could be replaced by new green jobs, provided government and private investment is mobilised correctly.

Sarah George

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