Thursday, June 28, 2012

UK has the largest green skills gap in Europe - report

Green Deal jobs like insulating this ceiling
Green Deal jobs like insulating this ceiling are going to decline. So much for the Greenest Government Ever.

The UK has been singled out for having skill gaps in more occupations in the green economy than eight other EU countries.

A new study also says that demand for such skilled workers is highly dependent on environmental regulations and subsidies, and governments need to do more to integrate their energy, environment and skills policies.

The shift to a green economy will not only generate new jobs, but will also change the scope and character of existing jobs. Demand for energy auditors, electricians, solar PV installers, sheet-metal workers and insulation workers is forecast to rise in most of the eight countries in the study.

These occupations, which require medium-skill levels, have more growth potential than higher-skilled occupations, which employ fewer people, the report says.

The UK, Germany and Finland are three out of the eight countries that predict future increases in the number of jobs across the widest range of occupations.

But the UK lacks the appropriate skills more than any other country, and is blamed for introducing changes to legislation (along with the Netherlands) that are expected to reduce demand for energy auditors, solar PV installers and insulation workers.

Ministers have suggested that the introduction of the Green Deal will increase employment in two of these sectors. But the Energy Bill's own impact assessment reveals that the number of insulation installations could actually reduce under the Green Deal from previous levels, which will cut the number of jobs in these sectors.

The research comes from Green Skills and Environmental Awareness in Vocational Education and Training, a report from the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) prepared for the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop), which looked at nine different job roles (see below) in eight EU member states: Germany, Greece, Italy, Hungary, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Finland and the UK.

The need for consistent regulation

It recommends several policies that will help businesses take advantage of opportunities in the transition to a greener economy, and ensure the availability of appropriately skilled workers.

The most important of these is consistent regulation and sustained investment over a prolonged period of time, to ensure that the markets for these products and services become self-sustaining. Secondly, financial incentives need to be phased out gradually to prevent dependency on state funding and to avoid ‘shocks’ that could cause businesses to fail and jobs to be lost.

But it's not just a matter of legislation, the report says. Businesses and private consumers need to be better and more actively informed of the benefits of investment in energy-efficient equipment, systems, products and services, through better marketing and information, advice and guidance from governments.

Generally, the occupations in which job numbers are predicted to increase are in renewable energies, the environment and new technologies, while they are predicted to decline in sectors worst affected by the recession, such as construction.

In the last three years there has been an increase in the number of jobs for insulation workers and electricians and, in relative terms, for nanotechnology engineers and environmental engineers.

The data also show stable or slightly increasing demand for sheet-metal workers and refuse collectors. Only in the cases of solar photovoltaic installers and transport vehicle/energy auditors does it appear that employment has contracted.

Gaps in learning provision

One of the main gaps in learning provision is for insulation workers and solar PV installers.

The UK was especially picked out for having employers who lack experience of transparency in the content and quality of training in solar PV.

In their survey responses, learning providers across the eight states said they were enthusiastic to change the content of curricula to meet new demands. However, action has been rather piecemeal and reactive so far, although less so among those providing tuition for new occupations such as energy auditors and solar PV installers.

All states were criticised for not doing enough to steer unemployed workers, young people or disadvantaged groups into the target occupations. It said there are very few examples of this kind of project, which could do a lot to help the long-term unemployed.

It recommends also revision of existing curricula, qualification standards and training programmes, and the promotion of green career opportunities hand-in-hand with the raising of their status in society. The occupations most crucial to the green economy, like energy auditors, environmental engineers and insulation workers, are not necessarily known to people as career options.

The sectors examined are:

  • nanotechnologist, engineering technologist and environmental engineer as examples of high-skilled occupations

  • energy auditor, transport vehicle emissions inspector, insulation worker, electrician, solar photovoltaic installer and sheet-metal worker as examples of medium-skilled occupations

  • refuse/recycling collector as an example of a low-skilled occupation.

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