Survey: Half of UK professionals would consider working in sustainability

Conducted by recruitment and workplace solutions provider Hays, the survey asked workers whether they would consider a career in an industry that is directly contributing to the net-zero transition, such as renewable energy, electric vehicles (EVs) or energy efficiency. Most acknowledged that they would need to undertake reskilling or upskilling to do so.

The survey also asked professionals whether people would be interested in helping organisations beyond these sectors respond to the net-zero transition. More than one-third (37%) said they would.

This is promising, given that the number of these roles on offer is growing. Earlier this week, PwC revealed that almost three times as many green jobs were advertised in the UK in the 12 months leading up to November 2022 than in the year prior. The firm’s second annual Green Jobs Barometer recorded steep upticks in roles on offer in the South West, North West, London and the South East.

Hays’ own survey found that almost one-quarter (23%) of employers have increased the number of workers specialising in sustainability within the past 12 months. This trend was more pronounced at large organisations; 33% of these organisations have grown their sustainability teams within this period.

Across organisations of all sizes, one-third said they expect the need for sustainability specialists and green skills to increase over the next 12 months.

81% of the employers who said they are going to be hiring staff for sustainability roles in the near future said they would consider hiring someone with the intention of upskilling them. However, when it did come to professionals with existing specialist skills, the most in-demand skill was knowledge of how to deliver decarbonisation. This means that energy managers are highly sought after.

Hays is recommending that employers looking to hire sustainability and energy leaders in the coming months start thinking about how to build their talent pipeline now, as there will likely be “tough competition” on the horizon.

Hays UK & Ireland’s managing director Simon Winfield said:  “It’s really positive to see the appetite from professionals to reskill into the sustainability sector, especially when the need for knowledge and skills in this area is increasing week by week. We’ve already seen a big increase in the demand for skilled sustainability professionals as organisations take note that they can’t ignore the impact their business may be having on the planet.”

The UK has not updated its skills plan in full since legislating for net-zero by 2050 back in 2019.

Energy transition

In related news, Centrica and the GMB union have co-launched a new ‘Future Energy Skills Board’ aimed at ensuring a just transition for workers and communities as the energy transition continues.

Co-chaired by GMB General Secretary Gary Smith and Centrica’s chief executive Chris O’Shea, the Skills Board includes representatives from organisations that collectively employ or represent six million people across Britain’s energy space. Organisations represented include Rolls-Royce, National Grid, Equinor, Daikin and JBC. The initiative also has the support of academics and several other major trade unions besides GMB, including the TUC, Unite and Prospect.

In the first instance, Skills Board members will assess the steps that the sector can take to create the careers needed for the UK to deliver on its energy and climate targets through to 2050. It will also look at the skills gaps for these careers and potential options for upskilling and reskilling. They will also collaborate to produce a report outlining other steps needed to ensure a just transition for those employed in high-carbon sectors at present, maximising the positive economic and social benefits, minimising negative impacts and ensuring equity.

The initiative will also undertake research into how to create an international competitive advantage from clean technologies and energy efficiency. Earlier this week, the EU agreed on measures to create the world’s first carbon levy on imported goods. The UK is set to follow suit but progress stalled amid two consecutive changes in Prime Minister within the latter half of this year.

GMB’s Smith said the Skills Board will focus on the “opportunities to create the skilled workforce and corporate leadership that ensures our country is a global leader”.

He continued: “Workers and their communities must be at the heart of our nation’s energy future. These voices are essential to ensuring the transition to a net-zero economy works for all.”

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie