A new report has called for a complete overhaul of the UK’s technical and vocational training provisions in order to meet the country’s net zero obligations.
The report, Skills for a Jobs Transition, was produced by the Future Energy Skills Programme and co-headed by Centrica CEO Chris O’Shea and GMB General Secretary Gary Smith. The document offers a 48-point plan designed to create the skills and careers the UK needs as it accelerates towards energy independence, while ensuring a fair and inclusive transition for the workforce of today.
The final report was informed by a wide range of submissions from across the energy sector, including those from Offshore Energies UK, Rolls-Royce, and National Grid. The authors also held two roundtable discussions and one-on-one interviews with experts from green energy, skills, and trade unions representing workers in the sector.
According to the research, a number of challenges face the UK in meeting its net zero goals, including an ageing population, a lack of apprentices and graduates, a slow uptake of new technologies, and constraints in the labour market due to competition.
It also highlights overseas efforts to scale the low-carbon economy, such as the US Inflation Reduction Act and the EU Green Industry Deal.
Chris O’Shea, co-head of the report and group chief executive of Centrica, said: “Across political parties, industry, and society there is now a consensus for the move towards net zero – but our ability to get there, and to do it in a way that is fair and affordable to everyone, needs to be examined.
“An ageing workforce, lack of apprentices, inadequate and inflexible vocational training, and a lack of diversity in the energy industry are just some of the challenges standing in the way.”
Recommendations from the report cover three main areas: strategy, skills, and job transition. Among these include expanding the ambition of its green investment to match the scale of plans recently set out by other G7 peers, large-scale public investment in decarbonising homes, and committing to national retraining programmes.
“The UK must transform our skills agenda, from the classroom to the frontline of energy delivery, to secure a successful climate jobs transition to net zero.” said Gary Smith, co-head of the report and general secretary at GMB.
“The scale of the challenge is clear, and the price of failure is staring us in the face with the offshoring of hundreds of thousands of good jobs and tens of billions of pounds in investment over the next generation to the rest of the world.”
However, the report is hopeful, stating that “As employers, unions, and representatives of organisations with a stake in ensuring we have the skills we need for this transition, we are optimistic about the opportunity we have to deliver a revolution that creates green jobs, lowers bills, meets our climate change ambitions, and secures energy independence.”
The government has already taken some steps to address the skills challenge, such as the launch of the Net Zero Skills Accelerator in 2022. However, the Skills for a Job’s Transition report argues that more needs to be done to ensure that the UK has the skills it needs to meet its net zero goals.
The report’s findings are timely, as the UK government is currently developing its Net Zero and Nature Workforce Action Plan. The plan is due to be published in the first half of 2024, and the Skills for a Jobs Transition report hopes that its findings will be incorporated into it.
A link to download the report in full can be found here.
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