Green is the new black – how 2021 will be the year of green jobs
The news over the past year has, understandably, been saturated with Covid-related stories and updates so it may have seemed that climate change had taken a backseat during the pandemic.
However, behind the scenes, green goals are being set in ambitious ways. In 2019, the UK government announced a target of net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050 (2045 in Scotland). If anything, the pandemic has served to accelerate this as we aim to grow back greener, the focus being on green recovery. Green jobs were one of the cornerstones of the government’s targeted Plan for Jobs. This not only means that a huge uptick of jobs in green energy development and deployment will be necessary, but sectors across every industry will have to be prepared to meet this new green economy. Some jobs will become redundant, others will be created and others still will involve retraining and transitioning.
According to research conducted by innovation foundation Nesta, jobs in environmental goods and services only account for 1.3% of total employment in the UK. However, that is set to change and to do that millions must be retrained or upskilled. The government’s planned ‘green industrial revolution’ is set to cut emissions and create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the UK. “Our green industrial revolution will be powered by the wind turbines of Scotland and the North East, propelled by the electric vehicles made in the Midlands and advanced by the latest technologies developed in Wales,” Boris Johnson said in November. With his Ten Point Plan accelerating offshore wind, hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture, electric vehicles, heat pumps, greener maritime, nature, innovation and finance, and public transport, cycling and walking initiatives, job creation is set to be huge. The Green Jobs Taskforce is aiming to create two million green jobs by 2030 and is in the process of assessing how the UK jobs market and skills sector will adapt to support net-zero. Its action plan will include ways in which to deliver the green jobs of the future as well as highlighting the support that will be needed for people in brown industries that will have to transition.
Engineering – hit hard by the pandemic – will be one industry to both suffer and massively benefit from a move to greener energies. WaveTrackR data has been recording a surge in applications in the Engineering industry over the past two months (placing it in the top five industries for applications since November), but unmatched by jobs. As a highly agency-based industry whose contractors have shed most of their agency staff, many in Engineering have found themselves looking for jobs that are not being created. The majority of jobs in the Engineering industry lie in project development but Covid has forced many of those projects to be cancelled or postponed indefinitely. A push for the development of green energies could create a huge number of engineering jobs. Those working in oil and gas will need to think ahead and look to reskill to make a move to the flourishing green energy sectors.
With great strides to becoming greener as a nation also comes the creation of green jobs within other industries. We will see more organisations appointing sustainability officers to ensure both internal and external policies are environmentally sound. Other than those directly working on green industry, there will also be an increase of green jobs in health services, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, food and beverage businesses, and hardware equipment. Many green roles will be technical and therefore involve upskilling and/or retraining but a great number will need communication and advocacy skills as environmental policies are pushed forwards into every area of business.
With the unemployment rate expected to surge following the end of the furlough scheme in April and competition for jobs high, many will be looking at making a career change. The Office for National Statistics reported that in the first six months of 2020 over two million people changed jobs, with more than half switching to an entirely new industry. Reskilling is key here. For example, tradespeople can get accredited to become Green Home Grants installers, to take on one of a number of new roles to speed up residential home adoption of green energy and to retrofit homes to make them more environmentally sound. The government has vowed to invest in green skills training in numerous different areas which will help jobseekers looking to change careers.
The UK is hosting the next UN climate conference COP26 in November in Glasgow and it will want to show that it is doing its part to reach the ambitious global environmental goals set. That, combined with the drive to put green jobs firmly in the plan for building the economy back, will spark real change. The next decade will see a huge shift towards green jobs, until we get to the point where the line between ‘green’ and ‘regular’ jobs is barely distinguishable. New roles will be created, many roles in brown industries will become obsolete. 2021 is set to be the year the creation of green jobs truly accelerates.