Facilitating the renewable transition will depend on the support of a large and appropriately skilled workforce. However, the growing gap between installed renewable technologies such as heat pumps and electric vehicle (EV) chargers, as well as the number of green-skilled workers in the UK has raised alarm within the industry.
In July 2023, electric service company Centrica, released The Skills for a Jobs Transition report in which it highlighted that “urgent reforms of the skills system are needed for the UK to hit net zero.”
Soon after that EV charging infrastructure company RechargeUK warned that the EV skills gap will threaten the government’s chargepoint target for 2030.
Green-skilled occupations encompass a variety of jobs including heat pump or smart meter installer, and EV chargepoint engineers. The comparative novelty of these technologies however, has meant that a compatible workforce is yet to reach maturity.
Greenworkx is an EdTech startup aiming to build a talent portal that “bridges the gap between candidates, technical education and employment” within the renewable sector.
The company is advised by a number of industry experts including Anouka Dhadda, former head of energy and net zero at No. 10 Downing Street and Berthe Latreille, former managing director of JP Morgan EMEA Investment Banking.
Current± sat down with co-founders Mat Ilic, former Downing Street special advisor to then prime minister Theresa May and current CEO of Greenworkx, alongside Richard Ng, ex-Teach First and now CTO to discuss Greenworkx’s mission to help solve the green skills emergency.
What inspired the launch of Greenworkx?
Greenworkx came from our recognition of, and deep concern for, the green skills emergency that stands to become the major solvable barrier to the climate transition challenge that our world faces.
As founders, we saw the power of EdTech as a tool for building and supporting the net zero workforce, the frontline technical roles we need to bring about a low carbon future, at the scale and velocity that this challenge demands. By equipping people with the technical knowledge and skills needed for green jobs, we can foster a sustainable and prosperous future for all of us.
We are at a pivotal moment in history, a once-in-a-generation structural realignment in the way that our economies are organised, what energy we consume and which products we rely on.
By leveraging technology and education, we want to get ten million people into good, green jobs by the end of this decade and a lot more beyond – with the aim of leading our world towards a more sustainable future.
How urgent is the need to tackle the green skills gap – is there a sector within the industry where the need is particularly pressing?
To deliver on our net zero goals, 30 million green jobs will be created by 2025 and 60 million by 2030, and more than 200 million green jobs will be created by 2050. Annual investment in green infrastructure is in the region of US$3.2 million (£2.51 million) and needs to almost double over the coming years as we accelerate the growth of low carbon technologies.
All the while, we have been contracting workforces across most developed economies. For example, in the UK, nearly a third of the population will be aged 65+ in 2030. Against this backdrop, the urgency and scale of skilling and realigning the net zero workforce is extreme, if we are to successfully make homes more energy efficient, electrify transportation and decarbonise our energy systems.
Up to 90% of these jobs are skilled manual labour roles that do not need a degree, but they are not well known among the general public, and most job candidates are not aware of how their existing skills could transfer into these new roles, nor what training routes they should take in order to take advantage of these opportunities.
How is Greenworkx helping close the green skills gap?
At the heart of the talent portal that we are building – which exclusively focuses on the frontline, technical roles for net zero – is something that seamlessly bridges the gap between candidates, technical education and employment in this emerging sector.
Our approach goes beyond traditional education by providing users with bite-sized learning in practical skills and knowledge directly applicable to relevant jobs. And before long, the scaling of our product will mean further enhancements to this learner experience, supporting their ongoing growth and development through a wide-ranging curriculum, soft skills development and a network and community of learners across a range of roles and regions.
We see Greenworkx becoming the go-to partner for industry leaders who are looking for the best talent, as well as the trusted brand for every person that wants to use their skills to help the world’s transition to net zero.
How do Greenworkx’s advisors support this?
We have benefited from the expertise of investors and advisors that have long and accomplished track records across energy, climate, technology and government. Their perspectives have helped shape our understanding of what industry will need and how to build something that will also work at the individual, candidate level as well as aligning to government policy direction on net zero.
Are you seeing any trends from users of your site?
We have had a consistent interest in green jobs from candidates since we started, and have helped over one hundred through training and encountered more than a thousand candidates overall. While some of them are clear on the direction they want to take, many are working with Greenworkx to help navigate the green jobs landscape and access further training or employment opportunities.
On the jobs front, entry level opportunities in domestic retrofit continue to be in demand, and we have also seen incredible consistency and growth in demand for solar installers, as the return on solar plus battery at the household level has remained very strong, against a backdrop of rising wholesale gas and electricity prices.
What more can be done by either industry players or government to incentivise people to begin a job in the renewables industry?
Government is allocating significant funds towards new skills development programmes, but this funding is often short term and geared towards upskilling existing workers. So from a skills policy perspective, more consistency and long-term thinking is needed. Incentives for businesses that take on new green-job talent, including apprentices, would also be helpful in giving employers confidence and resources for hiring.
More than anything, government signals play an important role in creating long term business confidence.
With industry actors, we have been blessed to work with businesses that have foresight in hiring to accommodate future needs, but also an openness to changing their recruitment approach and flexing their entry requirements for roles.