OPINION: Green skills – overcoming the talent gap and driving the economy forward

Adam Read, chief external affairs and sustainability officer at Suez and member of Green Jobs Delivery Group, discusses the need to recruit and upskill workforces in order to meet the sector’s resource management and decarbonisation needs.

OPINION: When we talk about decarbonisation, net zero, resource efficiency and a circular economy, it seems logical to think about hi-tech solutions, AI and business innovation as means of delivering the changes which our society needs to meet our commitments to reduce pollution, stop global warming and enhance biodiversity.

Adam Read

But the reality is that without the right people with the right skills at the right time and in the right place, many of our hopes and aspirations for change will fail to materialise. This principle is at the heart of the government’s Green Jobs Plan, which is due to be launched soon. It’s the outcome of two years of work by a range of sector representatives and experts from transport, energy, power, chemicals, forestry and of course waste and resources, where I have been our sector’s representative alongside ministers from four government departments, with a significant interest in this critical agenda.

The resources and waste sector will need a huge uplift in skilled professional people by 2035 if we are to meet the needs of all the sectors we support in terms of resource management and decarbonisation. That means attracting today’s teenagers into our sector by showcasing the types of careers that will be available, to help their parents understand that this is a buoyant sector and empower careers advisors to put us on their opportunities list.

However, we must also upskill our current workforce to enable them to transition to the jobs that are evolving around us with more focus on using AI and smart IT systems. This is a much-needed uplift in communications and change management expertise, as we look to move consumers and businesses to new ways of consuming, a clearer focus on materials including design for disassembly and recycling and, of course, a rapidly expanding demand for repair specialists to keep our stuff working for longer! Add to this the massive demand for new policies, regulations, enforcement, monitoring, analysis and reporting, you can see why we are predicting a net increase of over 300,000 roles in our sector during the next decade.

And we are not alone, as other sectors are going through their own transition plans and are mapping out their own skills needs, competency requirements and timetables for change. We don’t want to compete for the new skills and people if we can plan when we need them and align our demands with those of other sectors better, as this will not only stimulate better traction with training providers, colleges and universities, but also help to drive businesses of all sizes to up their game when it comes to their own recruitment, retention and training plans.

If you are interested in the job opportunities that are coming from sectors that are having to decarbonise, what skills and competences will be most needed and which might be most transferable from manufacturing and power to resources and transportation, for example, then the ESS 2050 | Green Skills Webinar is for you.

Can the current apprenticeship scheme cope with the demands we are predicting? How can these sectors collaborate better to make ourselves more appealing to school leavers? What is the cost of not getting on with your workforce planning now and simply recruiting what you need when you need it? If these questions resonate with you, then join us for a thorough debate about the Green Jobs Plan, the sectors in transition and their demands, needs and what this could mean for you, your employer, your employees and your sectors.

Adam is chairing the ESS 2050 | Green Skills Webinar on 26 April, looking at solutions to address critical skills shortages in the environment sector, with contributions from the government, Veolia, Groundwork, Chartered Institute of Ecology & Environmental Management, Manchester Met Uni and Siemens.

You can view the full agenda and register for free here.

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