Rhian Kelly, director at National Grid and Sue Ferns, senior deputy general secretary Prospect Countdown to COP, Energy networks, Energy retail, Generation, Innovation, Low-carbon generation, Policy & regulation, Skills, Strategy & management, Opinion

The energy transition must be accompanied by a shift to maximise green jobs and the time to start actively building these capabilities is now. Two members of the Green Jobs Taskforce give their views as part of Utility Week’s Countdown to COP series.

Getting the right people and skills in place to achieve the government’s ambitious climate goals is a huge challenge.

With a target of two million green jobs in the UK by 2030, a number of sectors and industries must change significantly to play their part in achieving a greener future.

The Green Jobs Taskforce, announced as part of the government’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution, has drawn on insights from across business, trade unions and academia, to identify actions that can have a real impact on building the net zero workforce the UK needs. Hitting the 2030 jobs target won’t happen overnight so it’s vital we move from intent to action now and that the recommendations in the Taskforce report, published earlier this month, are acted upon with urgency.

The opportunity for green jobs and skills should not be underestimated but nor should the negative impact of closing more carbon intensive industries. It is essential that in creating green jobs we also ensure that those workers and communities which are reliant, for example on coal generation, are not simply left behind.

As efforts to tackle climate change ramp up, it’s increasingly clear that a huge range of capabilities will be critical to a clean energy transition – and that every job has the potential to become ‘green’.

The Place-based Climate Action Network’s Just Transition Jobs Tracker estimates that the transition to a low carbon economy could impact at least one fifth of the UK workforce – that’s approximately 6.3 million workers across different industries around the country. This is why one of the key recommendations of the Taskforce report, the creation of a national body to oversee a Just Transition, must be acted on with haste.

National Grid’s research shows that in the energy sector alone 120,000 roles will need to be recruited between now and 2030, with a further 280,000 by 2050.

Thousands of people will be needed ranging from engineers, data analysts, machine learning experts and skilled tradespeople, to new roles linked to electric vehicles, hydrogen and carbon capture; for example, the expansion of offshore wind and workforce attrition in the North West will mean 60,000 roles need to be filled.

The North East, Yorkshire and the Humber will need to recruit for almost 40,000 more jobs to deliver offshore wind, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and support decarbonised industries, and the continued growth of onshore and offshore wind power will drive the need for almost 50,000 jobs in Scotland by 2050.

The sheer numbers demonstrate the scale of the opportunity here but also the challenge in tackling the current skills deficit. This is not just about creating new skills but identifying areas where existing skills can be transferred into new jobs. Prospect and other unions are heavily involved in this kind of work, for example where coal power stations are reaching the end of their useful life. A

n economy-wide effort is needed to achieve this and that’s what the Taskforce has aimed to reflect in its recommendations to government. The report calls for an all-in collaborative approach from policy, industry and education across all life stages of the green jobs life cycle, with investment in good green jobs, the creation of accessible pathways into long-term good green careers and actions that will support workers transitioning from high-carbon industries.

The recommendations in the report are underpinned with an absolute determination to leave no worker behind and to ensure that people from all backgrounds and corners of the country can benefit from opportunities available in the green jobs market -from school aged children right the way through to experienced workers. We need diversity of thought and perspective to overcome the obstacles ahead and to unlock the economic potential of this agenda – implementing the Taskforce recommendations now will lay the foundation for an inclusive workforce transition.

We need to transform our energy system for clean technologies whilst making sure we leverage this shift to maximise green jobs and skills. These means we have to stop talking about tackling the green skills gap and actively start building the capabilities the country needs. From inspiring and motivating the next generation, to making it simple and easy for experienced workers to retrain and reskill, we will all need to work together to make these changes a reality.