How green jobs and skills can ensure a just transition for young people
High numbers of young people not in education, employment, or training highlight the need to prioritize green skills agendas to help them find secure work in a net-zero future.
Recent ONS data reports that 770,000 young people aged 16-24 years old were not in education, employment, or training (NEET) in early 2023. Whilst a decrease from the previous quarter, this figure represents 11.3% of all young people in the UK.
High numbers of young people not in education, employment, or training highlight the need to prioritize green skills agendas to help them find secure work in a net-zero future. Green job creation is a key plank of policies linked to energy security, net-zero, and a ‘green industrial revolution’. Green jobs require advanced technical, managerial, and cognitive skills, leading to a skills gap that must be addressed through targeted policies.
Numerous government strategies have envisioned green job creation as a key route for a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’. In the UK, one in five jobs will likely experience some change to the skills required. Targets for job creation are being made at the same time as the government is introducing new T Levels as a post-16 qualification.
With a just transition becoming an important part of current policy discussions, future climate action should be devised to provide new, long-term opportunities to young people. This is a generation who have suffered disproportionately during the Covid-19 pandemic and 2022/23 economic downturn and will experience the impacts of climate breakdown disproportionately. Ensuring opportunities represents a key route to making climate mitigation and adaptation policies just.
This briefing summarises a review of academic, policy and government research to present a series of recommendations for how future green jobs and skills can support young people in finding new lines of secure, well-paid work in regions at risk of economic impacts of such transitions.
- Foster direct links between educational institutions and future employers to facilitate the transferability of skills from education to employment. Collaborative apprenticeship programs, such as Ørsted's three-year apprenticeships in Maintenance and Operations Engineering in partnership with the Grimsby Institute in Lincolnshire and Furness College in Cumbria, can serve as models.
- Establish specialized regional educational institutes to provide targeted green skills training. As decarbonization policies impact different regions to varying degrees, setting up centres focused on green skills training can help mitigate potential employment disruptions. An example is the Centro de Referencia Nacional en Energías Renovables y Eficiencia Energética in Navarre, Spain, which supports workers transitioning into the renewables sector and has contributed to a significant expansion of renewables. Similarly, regions like Yorkshire and Humber, which face significant job insecurity during energy transitions, could benefit from similar institutions.
- Address gender and race disparities in green work from an early stage. As in other STEM sectors, green work suffers from issues of inclusion, with women comprising less than 30% of the STEM workforce in the UK and being underrepresented in apprenticeships. Moreover, there are disparities in green skills and jobs based on ethnicity and race. To tackle these challenges, dedicated programs can demystify the green sector and encourage underrepresented groups to pursue careers in green jobs. Expanding initiatives like the ENTHUSE partnerships would provide younger students interested in green roles with opportunities to explore and experience these fields.