Millions of green jobs are open to people with the right skills. The problem is many don’t have them
We spoke to LinkedIn co-founder Allen Blue on the sidelines of COP28 to find out how to prepare the world’s workforce for a green future.
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COP28 headlines signal the scale of changes needed to protect the future of the planet. But to make this change happen, we need people trained to do the jobs essential to making this happen.
With access to data from more than a billion users, employment-focused social media site LinkedIn released a report last month examining where we stand in transforming our workforce.
He warned that a “significant sustainable skills shortage” is putting progress on the green transition at risk.
And according to LinkedIn co-founder Allen Blue, we’re running out of time to close this green skills gap.
Green jobs are hiring, but there is a lack of skills to fill the roles
When we think about green jobswe usually associate them with climate actions, such as installing renewable energy or ensuring water quality.
“The interesting thing about green skills, though, is that they are actually distributed much more widely than you might think,” Blue tells Euronews Green on the sidelines of COP28.
It’s not just the obvious ones, he says: most jobs are likely to involve the need for some green skills in the near future.
“These are green jobs, but it seems every job – and we think more than 50% of jobs – will be transformed to include some green skills as part of their skills portfolio.”
More and more companies are looking to hire people with green skills and “green hires”, as the LinkedIn report defines them, are increasing by around 25% compared to other sectors. Electric vehicle manufacturing, batteries, green technology – everything is expanding, which Blue says is great.
“But the problem is that the number of people with green skills remains around one in eight and one in nine Europe”, he explains, and this figure is only growing at a rate of around 9% every year. It’s not enough to keep up with demand.
Without people with the skills needed to green every aspect of our society, progress on all the major transformation promises made to COP28 it will move much slower than we need it to.
“We’ve seen it in the tech world, but it took 15 years to actually overcome that shortage of engineers, and I’m not sure we’ve overcome it,” Blue says. “I don’t think we’ll be 15 this time.”
Who is responsible for closing the green skills gap?
“We need to start thinking about how to include – as part of our plans to make the transition – making sure that people have the skills to make the transition,” Blue says.
He believes there are three main players in ensuring there are enough people with green skills to get the job done.
The first concerns employers because, inevitably, the work will fall on companies that build wind farms, improvement of electricity networks and all other efforts necessary to achieve the transition.
The list of potential fields is endless, but the companies hiring people will have to evaluate whether they are ready for the job.
And filling the gaps may mean thinking a little differently about who and how to hire, Blue explains.
“They’re really at the forefront of making sure that hiring happens in what we see as a skills-focused way. So instead of looking at experience or educational pedigree, what you look at is whether people actually have the necessary skills.”
Blue again draws comparisons to the early days of Silicon Valley, where there weren’t enough engineers and companies had to be extremely creative in how they trained their staff. For example, intensive training programs for existing employees and apprenticeship programs.
To improve green skills, successful companies must do the same to prepare for change green transitionhe says.
The next biggest player is investors. The key to a successful transition, Blue says, is that they have a responsibility to make sure there is a return on the environmental projects they are investing in because they are investing other people’s money. As with all investments, risk is an important factor.
“When they see green projects, they often see risk,” he says, “One of the forms that risk takes is a lack of trained workforce to actually work on a project.”
Understanding how they view risk is essential to making the entire process work. Setting aside investors to ensure training happens is one way to reduce that risk and start closing the green skills gap.
“It’s a mechanism that allows them to de-risk the project, but it’s also a mechanism through which we seriously believe we can make better progress towards a just transition,” Blue says.
Do governments have a role to play?
The third and perhaps most important group is the government.
Around the world, each country manages vocational training differently. Some do it much better than others. Blue says we are often given Germany, Switzerland and Austria as examples of places with good job training.
But everyone has a different method: the same approach will not work everywhere.
“In some cases governments will be well prepared to actually do this train people,” explains Blue.
“And in some cases, the best thing they can do is require that as green projects line up at companies, investors actually make sure the training actually happens.”
The LinkedIn report also found that a “green ceilingis emerging, with women underrepresented in both green skills and green jobs.
90% of women have no green skills or green work experience, while 16% of men have at least one green skill, the report says. There is a gender gap leadership positions Furthermore, women represent only 20% of senior executives and 21% of senior executives in green industries.
This is another task that governments may be best placed to take on by ensuring that training is done fairly, bringing all groups up to the same standard.
“There has been a lot of effort from companies, from individual companies in the ESG space [Environmental, social and corporate governance] and so on, to ensure greater equality,” says Blue.
“So governments, especially when they think about requiring companies and investors to invest in skills, can be a little bit more prescriptive and say they can invest in equitable skills in those areas.
“We know these things are possible, they are possible and they work,” Blue concludes.