Operation green skills - jobs for now, not just the future

By Ajay Sharman posted 14-06-2023 12:33


What do we mean by 'green skills'? Green skills relate to the need to adapt products, services and processes to climate change and the related environmental requirements and regulations that exist with governments. They refer to the knowledge, abilities, values and attitudes needed to live in, develop and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society.

Green jobs reduce the environmental impact of enterprises and economic sectors by improving the efficiency of energy, raw materials and water; de-carbonising the economy and bringing down emissions of greenhouse gases; minimizing or avoiding all forms of waste and pollution and protecting or restoring ecosystems.

There's a general perception that green skills relate to ecosystem management, water and sewage systems and renewable energies like wind power, environmental policy and pollution prevention. But the vast majority of green skills are being used in jobs that aren't traditionally thought of as green such as fleet managers, aerospace engineering, data scientists and health workers.

You may have read the recent discussions on the possible destruction of humanity by AI. Whatever your views on this, it's clear that humanity needs to protect the very environment we depend upon and exist in a more sustainable manner.

The recent Green Skills Summit hosted by the Surrey Chambers of Commerce and Surrey County Council reaffirmed a ‘structural shift’ in the economy towards recognising the green skills we need and the huge opportunities that green jobs offer. The Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP) being developed for Surrey and North-Mid Hampshire is a strong example of local solutions to local and regional concerns - and a growing sector where employers need a future workforce green-skilled up and ready!

LSIPs are funded and supported by central government to ensure skills, future skills and employers are at the centre of strategic skills planning and future funding. This is along with the Strategic Development Fund (SDF), which has set aside £2.6m to be allocated to low carbon vehicles, retrofit skills provision and green land-based projects. This all requires a sea change in thinking which must start with young people and everyone emerging from our education system. They must be able to visualise and understand the green jobs open to them and how they can gain the green skills they require to satisfy the future demand.

Employer support, research and innovation all have a part to play in addressing this. Everyone working in these sectors have a part to play in inspiring a new generation in schools and colleges to consider careers utilising green skills. STEM Learning’s UKRI funded STEM Ambassadors in every sector are addressing Green skills within their work and can help young people see the opportunities open to them, now and in the future.

A WPI Economics Research Report released in May presented a sub-regional demand in this LSIP area for Green skills, highlighting;

·       35,000 green jobs currently, representing 3.8% of total employees in the area

·       Green occupations included, environment professionals, directors in manufacturing and refuse and salvage sectors

·       Green sectors included those in low carbon transport and research sciences to Power generation and Green Financial

·       It's estimated that in this sub-region alone, the number of green jobs will rise to 57,000 by 2030 and 108,000 by 2050

At the launch of the report, a discussion panel - which included the Cabinet Member for Environment Marissa Heath - further highlighted the importance of employers engaging with colleges to improve progression rates into relevant roles and sectors, while improving collaboration between FE Colleges and HEs and retaining local talent from local universities to access these emerging career opportunities.

According to LinkedIn, the top five fastest-growing green jobs from 2016 to 2021 were sustainability manager — with 30% annual growth -  followed by wind turbine technician, solar consultant, ecologist, and environmental health & safety specialist. The Government’s Plan for Jobs and Net Zero Strategy, set out an approach to building back better and greener than before. This includes supporting up to 440,000 green jobs in 2030.

A Surrey Green Skills Panel, led by Surrey County Council, will drive this agenda forward in its region, working with employers and partners to support greater intelligence and insights and delivering a series of exciting FREE online green skills courses. They are creating a Surrey retrofit summit, aiming to reduce emissions from buildings; and working with employers, skills training providers and others to deliver a jobs fair, to highlight work experience and training opportunities, including a greater understanding of the career pathways.

In my opinion, students in schools, colleges, and universities need to see the opportunities and this transparency can only come from meaningful meetings with employers and employees from the sector. Accessing STEM Ambassadors is certainly one way in which those in the education sector may be able to view green skills and green jobs as a genuine and in many cases a financially exciting and rewarding career opportunity. 

Likewise, helping teachers in schools and colleges by offering support, through enrichment and CPD in green skills, will all drive up this crucial agenda. STEM Learning continues to help teachers integrate climate change into the secondary curriculum with courses and making other resources available, to help and assist teachers

STEM Learning also offers free Climate Change resources, ready made for primary and secondary teachers. Most do not require the teacher to be an expert in Climate Science. Instead, the resources are accompanied by notes and provide engaging visuals and practical activities. For teachers who want to know more about Climate Change and Sustainability, the STEM Learning CPD package has a variety of courses available.

The Climate Change Educational Partnership (CCEP) brings together partners from across education, research and the wider STEM sector to support the delivery of climate change related lessons and activities in formal and informal education settings. It aims to enhance educators’ subject knowledge and understanding, so that lessons are based on scientific evidence, and increase students’ understanding of the science and implications of climate change. It provides CPD courses, opportunities for schools to engage with STEM Ambassadors who work within climate change settings, and STEM enrichment opportunities, such as competitions and challenges. 

It also aims to increase teachers’ subject knowledge and understanding, so that lessons are based on scientific evidence and increase pupils’ understanding of the science and implications of climate change. The Partnership will particularly seek to support activities which focus on inspiring and engaging audiences who are underrepresented within the STEM sector and will provide educators with training, resources and lesson ideas, trained volunteers and support for enrichment activities and challenges.

Operation Green Skills is in full flow!

1 comment



19-06-2023 08:31

Thank you for this fascinating blog piece Ajay: the phrase 'Green Skills' is often touted around, but we don't really know precisely what it means or what the implications of them are in regards to STEM. I think we know a little more now!