Our report sets out nearly 50 practical recommendations for government, industry and education institutions to implement to ensure we create the skills and careers needed for the UK to secure greater energy independence and a just transition for the nation’s high carbon workforce, as part of our pursuit of net zero.
The Programme – co-led by Centrica and the GMB – has been created to examine how the UK energy sector can lead this impetus for change and build upon the work of UK Government’s Green Jobs Taskforce. It brings together leaders from business, trade unions and academia together representing more than 6 million workers across Scotland, England and Wales. Its Board Members include: Centrica, GMB, Arden Strategies, Equinor, Rolls-Royce, National Grid, Daikin, the TUC, University of Strathclyde Centre for Energy Policy, Arden Strategies, Offshore Energies UK, JCB, Prospect, Unison and Unite.
We also received oral and written evidence submissions from experts from across green energy, skills and trade unions, including: the Climate Change Commission, Hydrogen UK, Skills Development Scotland, Association of Colleges, Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) Purpose Business Coalition and Institute for Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA).
Skills shortages, skills gaps, and skill cannibalisation were key problems raised across submissions. Some of the specific issues highlighted were:
- Demographics – The existing workforce is ageing, meaning that as well as finding skilled workers for new vacancies, we will have to fill existing positions too.
- Complexity – Workers at different stages of their working lives will have to be trained or reskilled and entirely new skills and career pathways will have to be catered to.
- Labour Market Constraints – We will have to meet skills needs in the context of the constrained labour supply conditions the UK already has.
- A Lack of Apprentices – There is still an over-emphasis in our education system on academic routes over vocational education.
- Inflexible Qualifications – As new technologies and careers emerge, “add-skilling” is to difficult and slow.
- A Lack of Diversity – Women, BAME and disabled workers, as well as workers from low-income backgrounds, are severely underrepresented which makes the challenge more difficult by not attracting a large potential talent pool of skilled workers.
The Programme’s Board share an optimistic outlook for the future – but only if ambitious and decisive action is taken now to ensure the UK meets its ambitions of a speedy transition to net zero. Our forty-eight recommendations which range from wholesale reorganisations of existing systems to small changes that could make a big difference, include:
- Creating the right environment in the UK to investment by matching the scale of plans set out recently by United States, European Union and other G7 peers.
- Making the commitment to low carbon technologies, including hydrogen, CCUS and Small Modular Reactors.
- Having a public information campaign on the value of, and opportunities arising from, the apprenticeship route to a career.
- Focusing on linking skills provision to real jobs. Difficult decisions need to be made on prioritisation and substitution.
- Industry, government and unions should work on ‘just transition agreements’ to help workers to adapt to new opportunities.
We should be in no doubt how urgent this work is or how big the task is. A step change in the urgency and scale of government response is needed if we are to make the most of the potential of this moment.
Arden Strategies is the Secretariat for the Future Energy Skills Programme and is responsible for its overall management and delivery.