If the UK is going to attract investment in its green economy, we desperately need skilled young people to enter the sector, writes Neil Bentley-Gockmann
Last year, ahead of world leaders meeting in Glasgow for COP26, I chaired sessions on green skills for the WorldSkills International Conference looking at how educators are playing their part in the shift to more sustainable economies.
It opened my eyes to how the Indo-Pacific region, as a real powerhouse of high-quality skills and talent, is helping drive the world economy in terms of low-carbon economic development.
However, it was also clear that demand for high-quality green skills in the region is increasingly not being met because of a lack of skills supply, skills mismatches and a paucity of data on what green jobs are.
I was keen for WorldSkills UK to better understand the picture closer to home in terms of risks and opportunities.
That’s why we commissioned Learning and Work Institute to produce a report looking at the attitudes of young people and employers towards green skills.
That report, published earlier this summer, found that we risk missing crucial net zero targets.
That’s because, although young people have a strong appetite for jobs combatting climate change, their interest is being thwarted by a lack of advice and support on how to pursue a green career.
It also highlighted a stark disconnect between increasing employer demand for green skills and young people’s knowledge of what they are.
Four-fifths of young people want to work for an organisation that is committed to tackling climate change but 87 per cent said they didn’t know what green skills are.
We found that young women are especially keen to work in roles that tackle climate change, but that they are even less sure than young men about the skills they need.
This disconnect matters because meeting the UK’s ambitions for net zero is essential for the planet, and it also holds huge opportunities for the economy and for young people.
Boosting the supply of world-class green skills can help secure inward investment, spur productivity and create highly skilled jobs across the UK.
The Skills Taskforce for Global Britain, set up last year by WorldSkills UK, found that clean technology is a growing area for inward investors seeking to help create high-quality jobs in the UK.
However to compete successfully with other countries for such lucrative investment to create jobs and drive growth, we need a skills offer which showcases our high quality technical talent.
For all these reasons, we are committed to working with our partners to develop an internationally competitive skills base for net zero.
That’s why we are leveraging our global network and working with the likes of Weston College and WorldSkills in Taiwan to share international skills best practice in offshore wind technology.
On electric vehicles we have brought together WorldSkills in Korea with Mira Technology Institute to share intelligence, as well as working with the Institute of the Motor Industry to bring electric vehicle skills into our automotive competitions programmes.
Meanwhile on renewable energy we are linking the East Midlands Institute of Technology up with WorldSkills in Kenya to help develop new national and international programmes that measure our skills against the rest of the world.
But to go further and faster, we need more partners and partnerships to help us deliver the green skills of the future, because we cannot just look to governments to make things happen.
We know that employers need green skills and we know that young people are interested in them.
So please work with us to help the UK become a world leader in green skills development that will benefit young people, the economy and the climate.