The scale of the task the government has set itself in creating 440,000 jobs in green industries by 2030 has been thrown into sharp relief by a new analysis of skills.
According to jobs site Indeed, green jobs need to be created at 25 times the current rate if ministers are to meet their targets, a rate that could trip up the lofty ideals expressed in the government’s net zero plans on 19 October, announced ahead of the COP26 conference (31 Oct-12 Nov).
Indeed’s analysis revealed that salaries below the UK average persist in many of the most common green jobs, while Wales and the north-east of England had the highest concentrations of workers in the green economy.
The share of green job vacancies rose by 13% between January 2016 and October 2021, but remained low at about 2,000 green roles per million job postings (0.2%).
The most common green job vacancies this year were for recycling workers, representing 19% of all green job postings on Indeed. This was followed by environmental managers, with 15% of postings, and ecologists at 10%.
Thousands of new technicians and installers will be needed if the plans to end the sale of gas boilers by 2035 were to be fulfilled, Indeed said. Ministers want tradespeople to install at least 600,000 geothermal and air heat pumps annually by 2028, which are seen as critical in reducing household CO2 emissions. However, only 36,000 heat pumps were installed last year.
Phil Hurley, chair of the Heat Pump Association, said this week that the industry’s training centers had the capacity to retrain up to 40,000 plumbers a year. But since the profession is dominated by middle-aged and elderly people, some may choose to retire instead of learning the skills required. Around 120,000 are already qualified to install types of heating systems beyond gas boilers.
Government announcements on green jobs have often described the roles as being “good quality” jobs but Indeed’s analysis shows typical salaries for green vacancies are mixed with the median £18,720 pay for recycling workers being significantly lower than the UK average full-time annual salary of £31,000.
Environmental managers, with an average salary of £37,500, and sustainability consultants (£42,500) are relatively well-paid roles in comparison, while other common green jobs tend to pay close to or below the UK average.
Jack Kennedy, UK Economist at global job site Indeed, said that Indeed’s data suggests agreement on stimulating the green economy had not yet translated into the hoped-for surge in green job creation.
“The prime minister’s vision of a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ envisages the creation of both new technologies and hundreds of thousands of new jobs,” he said. “But at the current sluggish rate of job creation, the revolution risks being tripped up by the lack of green roles.
“The government has announced several initiatives to enable the UK to transition to net zero, but with many of the most in-demand green jobs being specialist positions, policymakers will also need to consider training programmes to help workers gain the necessary skills.
“Many employers have been keen to state their own environmental goals and they too will bear some of the responsibility to train and re-skill workers as they switch from ‘dirty’ to clean energy.”
The government’s key targets for its emissions targets are:
- Establish a path towards all heating appliances in homes and workplaces from 2035 being low carbon
- An ambition that by 2035 no new gas boilers will be sold
- £450m three-year boiler upgrade scheme to offer households grants for low-carbon heating systems
- £60m heat pump ready programme
- To secure a decision on a large-scale nuclear plant by 2024
- 40GW of offshore wind by 2030
- To deliver 5GW of hydrogen production capacity by 2030 and halve oil and gas emissions
- To end sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 with £620m for zero emission vehicle grants
- £2bn investment to help half of journeys in towns and cities to be cycled or walked by 2030
- An extra £625m for tree-planting
- £120m to develop small modular nuclear reactors
Many have stated the programme lacks ambition. Kevin Anderson, a professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester, said: “The UK’s net zero strategy falls far short of both its Paris and G7 temperature and equity commitments. Scour the associated spreadsheets and the numbers reveal a story of subterfuge, delusion, offsetting and piecemeal policies – all dressed up as a shiny new strategy for COP26.”
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said: “Grants of just £5,000 [heat pumps cost about £10,000 to install) and a 2035 boiler phase-out date simply won’t be sufficient to drive down emissions or to support low-income households to make the switch. The UK’s heat pump policy lags well behind other European countries, with the UK installing 30 times fewer heat pumps than Estonia and 60 times less than Norway.”
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