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UK facing ‘supply and demand’ issue over green skills and green growth – experts

The UK is facing a “supply and demand” impasse between the lack of workers with green skills and green growth, industry leaders have found.

Research from Economist Impact and ScottishPower’s parent company Iberdrola, released on Thursday, found that the UK’s transition could be at risk if skills programmes are not ramped up across the private sector.

The Green Skills Outlook report explored the green transition in nine labour markets including the UK, looking at four sectors that will play a central role – technology, construction, transport and energy.

It found a majority (71%) of business leaders agree that green skills will be the most important driver to decarbonising the economy.

However, only 51% are implementing or planning to implement green skills programmes for their workforce.

Meanwhile, almost two thirds (63%) think that the green transition will create more jobs than it eliminates – but a large proportion of the UK workforce is being left without crucial training in the skills necessary for a greener economy.

Amy House, director of Green Economy – which supports businesses to decarbonise, said the green tech sector is “driven by policy and legislation not at the moment driven by supply and demand”.

She said the lack of consistency from central government means the UK is relying on local authorities to support the sector to grow.

Speaking at the Better Business Summit in Manchester, Ms House said: “We’re seeing more and more businesses that are definitely more receptive to changes and activities to take to decarbonise but we’ve still got a long way to go to build up the supply chain to deliver those services.

“If every business said: ‘Yup we’re going to decarbonise, we’re going to do this, that and the other,’ the truth is we don’t yet have enough installers in the UK to then take up that action.”

Using the example of heat pump installers, Ms House said the number needs to grow from the current 3,000 installers in the UK to 27,000 in order to be on target to reach the country’s net zero goals.

She added that businesses do not have enough people with the right skills to generate growing demand for decarbonising technologies.

“There is a big gap there in that the businesses are so stretched and resource and time poor that they don’t really have time for entry level, they need people with the expertise to come in and go out fitting,” she said.

“We need more trades people coming into this space with the passion and the know-how to make a difference.”

On those with transferable skills who could train, Ms House said: “Whilst they’re already making a lot of money in the space they’re in, it’s not that easy to then encourage them to diversify, pivot and go into a turbulent market place that doesn’t always feel it has a backing.

The Green Skills Outlook found that the top three policies business leaders think should be prioritised to ensure the supply of green skills in the labour market include supporting green skills courses at educational institutions, supporting business investment in upskilling and re-skilling programmes, and adapting existing work and training for the unemployed to increase the emphasis on green skills.

Ignacio Galan, Iberdrola’s executive chairman, said: “The opportunities presented by the transition are vast, but it is critical that both businesses and policymakers are sharply focused now on ensuring people are equipped with the right skills and training.

“Without skilled workers, the transition will not be delivered, and the benefits will not be realised.”

Keith Anderson, chief executive of ScottishPower, said: “The energy sector has been driving the bulk of green jobs to-date and we’ve been proud to lead the transition but as we move to the next phase a much wider range of industries will be competing for talent with those critical skills.

“Businesses looking to future proof their workforce plans should consider investing in those skills ahead of need to ensure they stay ahead of the game.”