The UK’s push towards a greener future is in desperate need of qualified workers due to a severe shortage.
In recent times, the United Kingdom has been actively constructing the framework for a low-carbon economy in the future. However, beyond the promises and policies made by the government, there is a practical issue to be addressed: where will the workforce come from to implement the green agenda?
The United Kingdom’s most significant industrial advancement since the Industrial Revolution will necessitate a comparable shift: the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs to meet the demands of a low-carbon economy. This includes the addition of thousands of miles of cables to the national grid, the construction of electric car battery factories, the installation of heat pumps, and the increasing need for wind and solar farms. Specialists caution of a serious deficiency of certified welders and electrical engineers and are concerned that the government has waited too long to address this issue.
According to Ed Miliband, the current shadow energy secretary, Britain has a unique chance to reconstruct its economy. However, he accuses the prime minister of being negligent and the Tories of being content with sending potential jobs and wealth abroad instead of using them to rebuild Britain.
Miliband states that Britain’s carpenters, welders, engineers, technicians, and construction workers will be responsible for achieving a sustainable future for the country. However, he criticizes the Conservative party for allowing numerous well-paying jobs to be outsourced to other countries, resulting in those countries excelling in industries such as steel, electric car manufacturing, and renewable energy.
The IPPR, a thinktank with a left-leaning perspective, predicts that the transition to a green economy could potentially generate 1.6 million jobs. Luke Murphy, an associate director at IPPR, states that the current skills gap poses a risk to the UK’s goal of achieving net zero emissions and also presents a significant economic opportunity.
According to him, the implementation of offshore wind has been a great success. However, we have not been able to capitalize on the economic potential as effectively as other nations.
According to the IPPR, the UK has a lower percentage of its working-age population employed in renewable energy compared to other European countries. If the UK’s wind industry were as successful as Denmark’s, which is home to offshore leader Ørsted, it could create an additional 98,000 jobs. The IPPR warns that without proper industrial strategy and skills in place, the UK may struggle to meet its net zero targets and miss out on the potential of the green transition. The organization’s director, Murphy, emphasizes the need for both a net zero strategy and an industrial strategy to effectively tackle this challenge.
Different predictions have been made about the amount of jobs needed to achieve Britain’s goals for reducing carbon emissions. According to the Committee on Climate Change, who advise the government on climate issues, there could be anywhere from 135,000 to 725,000 new jobs by 2030 in industries that promote low-carbon practices, such as producing renewable energy, improving buildings, and making electric vehicles.
According to Phil Beach, the CEO of Energy and Utility Skills, a trade association, there is a severe shortage of welders and electrical engineers. He predicts that while there are currently only a few hundred certified welders in the UK, the country will require several thousand to reach net zero. A similar issue exists for certified electrical engineers, who will be in high demand throughout the energy industry.
Beach states that our goal is to educate and prepare as many electricians as possible. In the next ten years, approximately 20% of our current electricians will retire, leaving a need for 275,000 new positions to be filled. However, it typically takes two to three years to become fully certified, which presents a significant shortage in the industry.
The government aims to boost the UK’s offshore wind capacity to 50 gigawatts by 2030, which is currently at just over 10GW. They also plan to increase solar capacity by five times by 2035 and to have 24GW of nuclear power capacity by 2050, compared to the current 7GW. This will require the addition or upgrading of more than 600,000km of electric lines across the country to connect these projects to the grid.
At present, in households throughout the nation, government goals aim to have up to 600,000 heat pumps replace gas boilers annually. Additionally, residential streets and motorways are anticipated to feature electric vehicle charging stations.
Each part of this strategy necessitates a large number of proficient employees. Nesta, a non-profit that promotes innovation, reports a significant shortage of qualified heat pump engineers. At present, there are only around 3,000 certified heat pump engineers, but the UK will require at least 27,000 by 2028 in order to meet the government’s goal.
According to the Offshore Wind Industry Council, the offshore wind industry will need to increase its workforce to over 104,000 by 2030 in order to meet current targets. Meanwhile, the Nuclear Industry Association predicts that power stations will require around 250,000 workers, a significant increase from their current workforce of 77,000.
Andy Lane, the leader of BP’s carbon capture business in the UK, predicts that there will be more jobs available in the green transition than people to fill them. BP’s carbon capture project in Teesside is estimated to generate 5,500 job opportunities and the company is collaborating with nearby colleges to provide apprenticeships and train individuals in engineering and environmentally-friendly skills.
According to Lane, the responsibility of obtaining qualified employees has primarily been focused on specific regions. Lane has also aided the government’s green jobs taskforce in identifying the necessary skills throughout the nation.
“Lane emphasizes the importance of recognizing this as a chance for growth. These jobs offer security and significance, and it is crucial to promote the positive aspects of these positions in order to attract a more diverse workforce,” Lane states. “Traditionally, this field has been dominated by white men, but that will no longer be sustainable in the future.”
The Labour party has proposed a strategy to turn Britain into a leading country in green energy, aiming to create a minimum of 500,000 well-trained jobs in all areas of the nation. This plan involves setting aside £500m to offer financial assistance to environmentally friendly projects that secure a government contract and demonstrate their commitment to supporting British industries and employment in the country’s industrial centers.
According to Miliband, the green prosperity plan of the Labour party aims to revitalize the nation by creating high-paying, secure jobs and apprenticeships that will bring prosperity to both families and communities.
A representative from the government stated that 80,000 environmentally-friendly jobs have been established in the United Kingdom since 2020. The government’s strategy aims to bring in £100 billion of funding for green industries that will contribute to the future, and aid in creating 480,000 jobs by 2030. This will result in a more robust economy and a more reasonably priced transition to domestic energy. The opposition party’s irresponsible proposals would undo all progress and result in 200,000 British jobs being sent overseas. This would also mean sacrificing the necessary communities and skills for the transition, while families bear the consequences of achieving net zero emissions.
The government is anticipating to establish a strategy for skilled employment within the next few months. Is it going to be ambitious enough? According to Murphy, “We are falling behind.” There needs to be a stronger focus on job opportunities and skill development, or it could hinder the energy transition.