Environmental change is an increasingly important driver of labour demand and skills supply across all sectors. Therefore, the positive impacts of the transition to a greener economy can be maximised by simultaneously developing the skills, knowledge and competences required by resource-efficient processes and technologies; and integrating these into businesses and communities.
Right skills for green jobs are the prerequisite to make the transition to a greener economy happen. Today, skills gaps are already recognized as a major bottleneck in a number of sectors. Sectors as renewable energy, energy and resource efficiency, renovation of buildings, construction, environmental services, manufacturing. The adoption and dissemination of clean technologies require skills in technology application, adaptation and maintenance. Skills are also crucial for economies and businesses, workers and entrepreneurs, to rapidly adapt to changes as a consequence of environmental policies or climate change (1).
Green Skills are skills for sustainability. The technical skills, knowledge, values and attitudes needed in the workforce to develop and support sustainable social, economic and environmental outcomes in business, industry and the community are the “Skills for sustainability”.
Trends in the green economy and green employment
The growing importance of sustainable development and the shift to a low-carbon economy is a huge change and global trend. These trends are increasing the pace of change in labour markets and skill needs. Economies moving towards greener production can seize this potential for job creation. They can deal effectively with the coming structural change and transformation of existing jobs.
It appears that the green economy and green employment have ebbed and flowed according to two main factors. These two main factors are the general economic cycle and trends in government policy. This includes the availability or otherwise of government incentives and subsidies (2).
Three Ways the Green Economy Affects the Skills
The transformation wrought by greening economies affects skill needs in three ways (3).
First, the green transformation shifts activities in the economy. For example, those that are less energy-efficient and generate higher CO2 emissions towards those that are more efficient and less polluting. This type of transformation occurs at the industry level. It causes structural shifts in economic activity.
It also causes changes in employment, between and within industries. This is the green restructuring. Structural changes, in turn, decrease demand for some occupations and skill profiles and increase demand for others. An example of this source of change in skill requirements would be the growth of alternative and renewable energy sources. Examples of alternative energy sources are wind or solar power. Use of that kind of energy can make a relative decline in the production and use of fossil fuels. It calls for training to enable workers and enterprises to move from declining to growing sectors and occupations.
Second, we have structural changes. That includes the introduction of new regulations. This also includes the development of new technologies and practices. We can find the result in the emergence of some entirely new occupations. This process is very much country-specific. For example, a solar technician is often mentioned as a new occupation in those countries where solar energy is a new technology. Emerging occupations call for the provision of relevant training courses and the adjustment of qualification and training systems.
New Skills Needed
Third, many existing occupations and industries will need workers with new skills. This is in the process of greening existing jobs. For example, within the automotive industry. Workers across a range of jobs from engineering design to the assembly line will have to work with new fuel-efficient technologies. In another example, farmers in many parts of the world will have to adjust to more severe drought conditions. This requires them to learn how to grow new crops or new methods for producing the same crops. This source of change in skill requirements is the most widespread. In fact, it will be pervasive and calls for a major effort to revise existing curricula, qualification standards and training programmes. This will affect all levels of education and training.
New Occupations and Changing Skill Profiles
All three sources of change – shifts between industries, development of new occupations and changing skill profiles within occupations – alter the skill profiles of occupations and thus affect training needs and delivery. The scale and extent of these changes depend in turn on the speed and breadth of technological and market changes in the green transformation. Preparation for new occupations, or for growth in demand for some occupations at the expense of others, is particularly important in preparing young men and women entering the labour market. Workers already in the labour market, midway through their careers or older, will need access to retraining to enable them, and enterprises, not only to move from declining industries and occupations into growing ones but also to keep their skills up to date with new technologies, market demand, government regulations etc. in their existing fields of work and business.
The Green Transformation
The diversity of the world and the uniqueness of each country’s national circumstances and development priorities, there is no single model or a pathway to the green economy. We will find shifting to a green economy that will require major economy-wide structural and technological changes. We will at least find the greening of key sectors. Examples can be energy, urban infrastructure, transportation, industry and agriculture. Therefore, it will also include greening investments nationally and globally. Further, it will generate green jobs through the green sectors, and supporting and facilitating green trade internationally through national and international policies.
- Skills for Green Jobs, ILO, https://www.ilo.org/skills/projects/WCMS_115959/lang–en/index.htm
- Skills for green jobs: 2018 update: European synthesis report (CEDEFOP 2018)
- SKILLS FOR GREEN JOBS A GLOBAL VIEW (ILO 2008)
Lucubrate Magazine August 2019