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Encouraging people into green careers

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With hundreds of thousands of ‘green jobs’ set to be created as the UK seeks to achieve its decarbonisation and environmental goals, IEMA has launched a new careers hub where anybody, from any sector or background, can go for information on how they can play a role in greening the economy.


The UK government’s updated Net Zero Plan, published in March 2023, sets out a whole-economy transition that is needed if the UK’s legally binding 2050 net zero carbon emissions target is to be achieved.

The pace and scale of change that is needed is breathtaking: electrification of transport and mobility; retrofit of existing homes; deployment of carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) and hydrogen to decarbonise industry; and a massive ramp-up of renewables to ensure that as we increase demand for electricity it is powered by clear and green sources.

Alongside the net zero transition, there’s also the legally binding targets and goals recently set through the Environment Act 2021 which will require wider environmental improvement action in the areas of biodiversity loss, water, air quality, and waste and resource efficiency. We will also need to adapt to a changing climate which is driving more extreme weather events.

All organisations, across all sectors of the economy, will be affected and will need to play their part.

The government’s net zero and environmental goals depend on the UK having the right workforce with the right skills and capacity in the right locations across the UK. Photograph: iStock

Workforce development

The government’s net zero and environmental goals depend on the UK having the right workforce with the right skills and capacity in the right locations across the UK. In the next 30 years, the net zero transition and action on nature recovery will drive opportunities for job creation, with existing occupations set to evolve as the UK’s economy decarbonises and becomes more sustainable.

The workforce shift is already under way. Government estimates show that since November 2020, over 80,000 green jobs are either being supported, or in the pipeline, across the UK economy as a result of new government policies and spending. The target is for this to reach 480,000 green jobs by 2030.

The government is working with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to improve data on the green economy. The ONS estimates a 16 per cent increase in direct employment in low carbon businesses across the economy from 2020 to 2021 – reaching nearly 250,000.

Recognising the importance of being able to track the number of people working in green jobs, the ONS, following extensive consultation and engagement, published a formal definition of ‘Green Jobs’: “Employment in an activity that contributes to protecting or restoring the environment, including those that mitigate or adapt to climate change.”

This definition is sufficiently broad to encompass a range of green jobs, including those related to decarbonisation and net zero, but also jobs in wider environmental activity. Green jobs therefore include people working in a range of businesses, including offshore wind, solar and heat pump installation, as well as people whose core work (for example, sustainability manager, ecologist) clearly contributes to protecting or restoring the environment.

Martin Baxter: "We need to inspire the next generation to channel their passion and understanding about climate change and environmental degradation into career choices."

However, given that all organisations will need to play their part in the transition, not just those firms in the ‘green economy’, there is a clear need for ‘green’ to be woven into all jobs… at IEMA we refer to this as “all jobs greener”.

This is a point we highlighted in our evidence to the House of Commons Environment Audit Committee inquiry and was the focus of our joint work with Deloitte on a Blueprint for Green Workforce Transformation. In this report, we define ‘Green Skills’ as: “The technical skills, knowledge, behaviours and capabilities required to tackle the environmental challenges we face and to unlock new opportunities for growth.”

IEMA Green Careers Hub

A key challenge is ensuring that there is sufficient capacity and capability in the economy to drive forward with the changes needed. Encouraging and supporting people into green careers is critical.

The Green Careers Hub is an initiative led and managed by IEMA. Research with businesses, educational partners and government departments, demonstrates high demand for encouraging and supporting people into green careers.

Engagement with IEMA members has also highlighted the desire for further information and support on an individual level. In the most recent IEMA State of the Profession Survey, 47 per cent of respondents said that having unclear progression pathways was a clear barrier in their careers. In addition, 24 per cent cited a lack of career information and advice.  

To meet this demand and support the transition to a green economy, IEMA has developed the Green Careers Hub, with a mission of promoting a more sustainable future by providing access to information and opportunity around green skills, jobs and careers. The Green Careers Hub is a platform where anybody, from any sector or background, can go to understand how they can play a role in the wider green agenda.

The aims of the Green Careers Hub are to:
a. Be the place where people go for information on green jobs, green skills and green careers 
b. Inspire younger generations to make the relevant choices to be able to enter the green jobs of the future​
c. Support government bodies with the sustainability, green jobs and skills agenda
d. Support the skills transition from high  carbon sectors ​
e. Provide access to green jobs, volunteering and work experience ​
f. Be the go-to resource for green careers advice, services and jobs​.

The Green Careers Hub provides a range of resources, including:

  • Job profiles of people working in different ‘green’ roles
  • Insights into key sectors that will be critical to the transition to a sustainable future
  • Video clips of people sharing their experiences and showcasing green jobs
  • Insights into learning and support for people developing their skills
  • Career pathways – whether you’re looking towards your first job, or you’re a ‘career-changer’ looking to apply your existing skills in a cleaner, greener context
  • Information on the importance of staying up-to-date and professional recognition
  • Links to live job opportunities.

Ultimately, we need to inspire the next generation to channel their passion and understanding about climate change and environmental degradation into career choices where, through the world of work, they can be an active part of the solution.

With over 80 per cent of the 2030 workforce already in employment, we also need to enhance the skills and capabilities of the existing workforce. Planning this workforce transformation is just getting started at national level, but the pace of change that is needed means that all organisations should be developing and supporting the talent pipeline so they can thrive in the future.

Visit the Green Careers Hub at: greencareershub.com

Martin Baxter, FIEMA, CEnv is Director of policy & external affairs at IEMA (Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment)

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