How the UK can cool its green skills crisis

The sustainability industry is booming.

The UK is generating a record amount of renewable sources in 2022, while global investment in new energy technology such as wind, solar, and electric vehicles (EVs) reached over a trillion dollars in a single year for the first time on record.

However, the boom of the sustainability industry may be expanding too fast for the market to keep pace with. The UK is facing a significant green energy skills gap, with a current shortfall of around 200,000 workers according to a recent PwC report.

With demand for environmental-focused jobs up by 91%, the situation will threaten to derail any decarbonisation efforts taken by the UK unless a solution is found soon.

What’s causing the sustainability skills shortage?

There are several factors that have caused one of the largest shortages in skilled labour the UK’s ever witnessed. The education sector has struggled to keep up with the sheer pace of technology innovation, while Brexit has seen restrictions on certain visas.

Sustainability is a fairly new yet rapidly developing sector, and skilled personnel will generally be in shorter supply until job confidence grows. As such, salaries have skyrocketed as businesses desperately compete to fill vacancies, but it means staff are having to do more with less resource and budget.

There are three areas in particular where businesses are having difficulty in plugging the green skills gap:

  1. Technical expertise: Many sustainability roles require specialised technical knowledge, such as engineering or computer science skills, to develop and implement solutions. But with almost every industry also vying for these professionals, there is simply too much demand and too little supply right now.
  2. Training and education: Many sustainable industries require specific training and education to enter the field, but there is a shortage of programs and resources available to provide this training.
  3. Diversity and inclusion: The sustainable industry, like many other industries, also faces a lack of diversity and inclusion. Addressing this issue is crucial to ensure that the industry attracts and retains a diverse pool of talent.

How can businesses reduce the sustainability skills gap?

To try and reduce the skills gap, the first priority should be to invest in the development of the existing workforce. The sustainability industry is a high growth market right now, which makes it attractive to workers looking to learn new skills and make themselves more attractive from a hiring perspective. Through training and upskilling programs are therefore becoming much more popular, with some of the most in-demand areas being waste reduction, energy conservation, and sustainable procurement and supply chain management.

“The children are the future”, the old cliche goes. But although it might seem obvious, there are still many businesses that aren’t making the most out of a huge and diverse pool of up and coming talent. Creating a graduate sustainability programme and partnering with educational institutions creates a win-win scenario for both sides. Not only does the business gain valuable resources, but they can also ensure that the next generation of workers possess the necessary skills to implement sustainable practices.

Finally, businesses can partner with sustainability-focused organizations such as non-profits, sustainability consulting firms, and other specialised organisations to gain access to valuable resources and expertise. By leveraging the knowledge and expertise of long-standing people in the sustainability industry, businesses can fasten the time in which sustainability plans become actions.

Change isn’t just for the private sector

While these are steps businesses can take today, the private sector alone can’t bear the brunt of the problem. If the UK is to truly become a global sustainability leader, there is a huge need and appetite for government-level intervention.

There are many ways this can be provided. The Green Jobs Taskforce Report published by the government in 2021 made 15 recommendations to ensure green jobs and skills could be delivered, including more support for job creation and skills and creating unemployment schemes to help more people get into ‘green’ apprenticeships.

Increased funding for education and training programs as well as for individuals looking to pursue careers and qualifications in sustainability should be another priority. Digital and technical skills are becoming vital elements in sustainability development, but with fierce competition from other industries, there needs to be more incentive if these gaps are ever to be filled.

The UK is making great strides in creating a more sustainable future, but skills shortages will only limit our true potential. By taking these steps, the UK can become a global hub in sustainability talent and a leader in environmental solution development.

About the Author

Alok Dubey is UK country manager at Monta. Monta is the operating platform powering the EV charging ecosystem serving drivers, companies, cities, and the electricity grid. With Monta you can launch, manage, and scale all your EV needs and operation with one integrated software built to EV better. We believe that accelerating and democratising the adoption of EV technology is key to fostering the sustainable future we so desperately need. That’s why Monta drives the entire EV ecosystem.

Featured image: ©magann