Unlocking a green recovery: which skills will needed to support a net-zero future in Lancashire?


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Off-shore wind

The Government has committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and with COP26 on the horizon, the prominence of this agenda is only set to accelerate further.

To reach this ambitious target, Government will need to develop detailed evidence about what this will mean for jobs and places. Lancashire represents a helpful place in which to explore the skill needs of employers active in the transition to a greener economy. Home to a budding energy and low carbon sector, it holds the capacity to attract investment in innovation that can be leveraged to support positive environmental activity, with large levels of investment in renewable energy, for example.

To help un-pack this question, the Work Foundation and Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership are partnering to explore the skill gaps that firms in the County are grappling with in relation to this imperative.

While securing a pipeline of talent to feed in to the sector from schools, colleges and universities, is of course crucial, the need to provide opportunities to workers who want to develop new skills, particularly those affected by the pandemic or divestment from carbon heavy industries, will be key. Research by the Industrial Strategy Council shows that 80% of the 2030 workforce are already working, indicating that adult education will be fundamental to ensuring the sector is supported to grow. Intensive support will be needed to support job transitioning - not least because it is low skilled workers in higher emitting sectors that are most at risk of losing employment as we move towards net-zero.

We know that in order to meet the net zero target, both strong growth in supportive industries and an overhaul of our national infrastructure will be necessary. Whether it be increasing electricity generation from renewables, the installation of low carbon heating systems, the retrofitting of homes or the replacement of diesel and petrol engine cars with electrical vehicles, there will be growth in jobs and industries to drive forward these activities. An estimated 400,000 jobs will need to be filled within the net-zero energy workforce between 2020-2050.

The potential is huge. With controversy still on-going over a recent decision by Cumbria County Council to allow a new coal mine to be built, recently published research by Cumbria Action for Sustainability found that green investment could create 9000 jobs in the county, over a fifteen-year period. The largest number of new jobs forecast would be in renewable electricity including generation from onshore and offshore sources, as well as hydro and solar power. Retrofitting buildings was identified as the next largest source of new jobs. Of course within these categories, varied job roles will be needed, from research and innovation, to machine operatives, project managers and marketing professionals as well.

Understanding the current skill gaps that employers are grappling with, and how they expect their requirements to develop going forward, are the key questions that we are exploring through the research project. Identifying the workforce priorities and needs of employers is even more relevant in the context of the Government’s recently launched FE White Paper: Skills for Jobs. As outlined in a recent Work Foundation blog, the new strategy proposes a skills system which is employer-led, with businesses working with training providers to design bespoke technical qualifications. Higher technical pathways will be crucial for businesses that are engaged in providing products or services that will contribute to the just transition, and therefore our research project provides an apposite opportunity to ask employers how they imagine their role in the skills system developing.

  

In exploring these questions we are surveying employers from across Lancashire, and supplementing this analysis through qualitative engagement with key employers from across the energy and low carbon sector. The research will be launched later this Spring.

If you would like to find out more about this project then please contact Trinley Walker, Policy Advisor, t.walker9@lancaster.ac.uk


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