Government ‘not sufficiently grappling’ skills gap needed for net zero – EAC

‘Inconsistent’ Government policy on green jobs and a knowledge-gap in necessary skills are resulting in ‘missed opportunities’, the Environmental Audit Committee warns today (25 October).

In its latest report, Green Jobs, the Committee expresses ‘disappointment’ that despite announcements committing millions of pounds to green jobs initiatives, the Government is yet to define what a ‘green job’ is, and how it will evaluate the perceived demand.

The EAC says that the Net Zero Strategy, which claims to support up to 440,000 jobs by 2030, would have been the ‘ideal opportunity’ to offer clarity on how to define and measure what ‘green jobs’ are and that while the Strategy set out the Government’s green jobs and skills ambitions, what is needed now is a ‘detailed, actionable delivery plan’.

Delay in clarifying this information could lead to the Government’s ambitions amounting to an ‘aspiration’, and failing to prepare the UK for the future, the Committee says.

Monitoring the sectors and regions where the jobs are needed, and rebooting careers advice that demystifies green jobs, is critical if we are to meet our environmental goals

It says there was a ‘lack of understanding’ in the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme, and it says Government ‘failed to engage’ with the sector to develop the skills required, resulting in contractors making staff redundant as consumers awaited confirmation of vouchers.

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said: “From renewable energy clusters in the North East and Scotland, to engineering powerhouses in the Midlands and nature conservation in the South West, we are building an economy set for net zero.

“But the workforce of the future is being undermined by a lack of evidence-based Government policies on how jobs will be filled in green sectors. Encouraging announcements of investment in green sectors of the economy are very welcome but the Government admits that claims about green jobs lack explanation and data on how the targets will be achieved.

“Our report today sets out how these green jobs roles can be filled. Monitoring the sectors and regions where the jobs are needed, and rebooting careers advice that demystifies green jobs, is critical if we are to meet our environmental goals.”

The Committee also repeats its previous recommendation that a National Nature Service be established: this can provide people with wider employment skills and help build green capacity in the longer term.

Education and training

During the inquiry, the Committee heard that climate change and sustainability risked being seen as a ‘tick box exercise’ in education. It says it is ‘imperative’ that current and future workforces are both climate and sustainability literate: criteria that must run through all education and training.

To achieve this, the Committee recommends that environmental sustainability be embedded across all National Curriculum and A Level courses, and a module on sustainability included in every apprenticeship and T Level course.

This should then, in turn, lead to a ‘knock-on effect’, boosting diversity in the sector, it says, and allowing skills and abilities to be tapped into.

Careers advice will play a ‘major role’ in making people aware of the opportunities in green sectors, it says.

During a Committee roundtable discussion with ‘young people’, MPs heard that advice and information is lacking on what jobs are out there. The Committee recommends that the national Careers Strategy is adapted by the end of this year to align net zero and environmental goals.

The EAC also found government employment schemes – such as Kickstart and Restart – do not embed sustainability.

“It appears that little future-proofing is being undertaken, with only 1% of Kickstart placements in green sectors,” it said. “This is despite the promise of ‘shovel ready’ jobs such as walking and cycling infrastructure, nature restoration and energy installation.”

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