The UK is missing opportunities to seize growth in green industries as a result of government policy and a growing knowledge and skills gap, a new report has found.
The Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC) latest Green Jobs report also expresses disappointment at the lack of a firm definition for what a ‘green job’ is.
Despite the Net Zero Strategy – released last week – claiming to support up to 440,000 jobs by 2030, a lack of clear definition as well as detailed, actionable delivery plans could leave the government’s ambitions faltering, the EAC warned.
It pointed to the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme, where due to the government’s failure to engage with the sector to develop the skills required for the rollout of low carbon installations, it perversely resulted in contractors having to make staff redundant.
The scheme was designed to help fund the installation of insulation as well as technologies like heat pumps and solar panels, but it shuttered early having provided less than a sixth of its original target. Throughout the scheme there were reports of members of the public waiting months to be issued vouchers and delays in installers being paid, which led to some contractors having to let staff go.
The EAC previously slammed the government for “simply abandoning” the scheme.
To prepare the UK for a green future and ensure there is not a skills gap that hampers this, the EAC has issued a number of key recommendations to the government. This includes ensuring that climate change and sustainability do not simply become a ‘tick box exercise’ in education, as a recent inquiry warned it was at risk of.
It is imperative, the Green Jobs report continued, that the current and future workforces are both climate and sustainability literate. These topics must run through all education and training courses, with environment sustainability embedded in the National Curriculum and A Level course, as well as a module included in every apprenticeship and T Level course.
This would have an additional knock-on impact of boosting diversity in the sector, as currently only 9% of engineers are women and only 3.1% of environmental professionals identify as ethnic minorities.
The EAC noted that while the government’s current commitment to increase diversity and inclusion is well, the sentiment is not enough. The government must set out a measurable way to increase diversity in the green workforce.
Careers advice must be made available that highlights the opportunities in green sectors, and sustainability must be embedded in employment schemes such as Kickstart and Restart. At the moment, only 1% of Kickstart placements are in green sectors, despite the promise of ‘shovel ready’ jobs in sectors like energy installation.
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,” said EAC chairman Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP.
“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.”