Careers advice: The green jobs revolution

26 November 2021

COP26, the climate change conference, has concluded with governments around the world agreeing to focus on their national plans for reducing emissions before the next conference, COP27, which will be held in Egypt in November 2022.

With the UK’s commitments to reach net zero requiring a green re-industrialisation of the country and the growth of new, innovative industries and technologies, a range of new jobs, often described as ‘green jobs’, will be required.

Green jobs and the UK

Green jobs are defined by the ONS as ‘economic activities that deliver goods and services which aid the UK in generation of lower emissions of greenhouse gases’. They encompass a broad range of professions from environmental scientist to solar panel installer, to wind turbine engineer and fuels specialist.

According to the Industry and Parliament Trust, around 200,000 people in the UK are currently employed in sectors that assist the move towards net zero. However, 56,000 more green jobs have been created since November 2020 and by 2030, the net zero strategy aims to support 440,000 new jobs. In November 2020, the UK Government launched the Green Jobs Taskforce to kickstart awareness of the importance and opportunities of low carbon jobs. In a report also published in 2020, it made a call for a clear plan to meet net zero to ensure that industries and educational facilities can adequately prepare and train people for green jobs.

What does this mean for your career?

We frequently hear talk of a green recovery from Covid-19 and a high-skill, low carbon economy of the future. We hear of a significant transition in jobs and responsibilities, with no employee being left behind. The UK Climate Change Committee forecasts 300,000 new jobs in economic opportunities emerging from accelerating the pace of emissions reduction.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that London will be the world’s first ‘net zero finance centre’.  Mark Carney, UN special envoy for climate action and finance (and former governor of the Bank of England), commented that “the objective for the private finance work for COP26 is simple: ensure that every professional financial decision takes climate change in to account.”  Similarly, James Alexander, CEO of the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF), is quoted as saying “sustainability is becoming the core to mainstream finance, whether that’s investments, lending and banking, pensions or financial advice.”

Skills gaps

The CFA Institute issued a report in 2020 showing a mismatch between supply and demand. The demand for sustainability skills was ‘very high’ with 6% of all investment professional jobs on LinkedIn asking for sustainability related skills, but fewer than 1% of professionals on LinkedIn disclosing sustainability-related skills on their profiles. Key climate objectives are likely to lead to vital roles in organisations including in investment management, reporting, risk management, and sourcing of business capital.

Filling the skills gaps

Gaps in sustainability skills will be filled in two possible ways: companies will either recruit people with those skills, or ‘grow their own’ by training their existing staff. Young people who have already undertaken studies or who have expertise in sustainability will reduce a business’ talent gap. 

Businesses that wish to grow their own talent may partner with organisations such as the Green Finance Institute (GFI), which has a mission to accelerate the transition to a clean, resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by channelling capital towards real economic outcomes that will create jobs and increase prosperity. For example, the GFI’s ‘Green Finance Education Charter’ is designed to help build the capacity and capability of the green finance sector by ensuring all financial services practitioners have the vital skills necessary to accurately assess climate-related risk and opportunities. 

Future opportunities

There is no one significant skill which we will all need to acquire to successfully manage a career in the green sector. Rather, the Green Jobs Taskforce Report to Government, Industry and the Skills Sector (2021) frames the future simply:

"The opportunity for green jobs and skills should not be considered as niche or restricted to certain sectors of the economy. Every job has the potential to become ‘green’ as the world moves to combat climate change, and there are a huge range of skills which will support the transition to a net zero economy."

As many previous alumni careers blogs have mentioned, it’s important for us all to be lifelong learners, and flexible and adaptable throughout our careers. Whether you are in finance, healthcare, technology, or professional services, there is likely to be an impact on your sector. Upskilling yourself on sustainability and its effects on your role and sector is therefore crucial to maintaining your competitive edge in the job market.

If you are a member of the WBS alumni community and you need support with your career or professional development, please contact alumnicareers@wbs.ac.uk.

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