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The need for ‘Green Skills’ is increasingly dominating the Government’s green agenda and is rapidly gaining recognition as a critical component in order to reach the UK Government’s net zero target. The manufacturing sector has a critical role to play in meeting this target, with analysis estimating that over 1.2 million green jobs could exist in the green economy.

Together, Make UK and Sage set out to understand what, how, and where we will need green skills in the manufacturing sector. Our new report expands upon the Green Skills Guiding Principles which are designed to guide, inspire, and support manufacturers as the sector seeks to access the skills to transition towards a digital and green economy. 

But what do we mean when we say green skills, and what impact does this profound change mean for our sector?

We define Green Skills as the effective amalgamation of environmentally conscious knowledge, abilities, values, and attitudes to support a sustainable and resource-efficient manufacturing sector. But it is fair to say there will be many variations and definitions – what we can agree on is that action to provide these skills is needed urgently, and at scale. 

Whilst the long-term 2050 goal still seems far away, what we do this next decade will determine whether we will be successful in achieving this target. The 2030s will be ‘the defining decade’ and to achieve what is needed in 2030, we need to take significant action in the next five years. Turning threat into opportunity will be a key to achieving net-zero in the manufacturing industry. Understanding and equipping our business with the green skills needed to complete our transition to a digital and green future, will be fundamental to this.

Our evidence shows manufacturers have made stellar effort to expand upon the digital and green skills within the sector. Manufacturers have shown an acute awareness of green skills, with almost two-thirds (62%) identifying and equipping their workforce with the skills they need to manufacture sustainably, and 70% training employees within the last 12 months to improve digital skills. 

The Green Jobs Taskforce highlighted project management, change management and leadership, education management and communication skills as vital non-STEM green skills required. This mirrors our own findings which showed 72% of manufacturers ranked innovation skills as the most needed additional skill to achieve sustainable manufacturing. The adoption and diffusion of new technologies, which are progressing, can support manufacturers to explore different ways of reaching their own net-zero targets. 

But effective leadership and management skills are also key to the green transition, and this is why it is no surprise to see that almost 6 in 10 manufacturers require management skills in order to manufacturer goods and products in a more sustainable way.

In addition, the top three technical green skills that will see the biggest increase in demand are: 

Resource efficiency, e.g., carbon accounting, lean manufacturing 
Low-carbon economy, e.g., nuclear and renewable energy generation, carbon emission minimisation
Development of new or amended products, e.g., design and production of electric vehicles.

But there is still some way to go…

Digital and green skills have yet to be fully embraced, and a prominent skills gap in the manufacturing sector still remains. Almost 4 in 10 manufacturers haven’t yet identified the necessary green skills to manufacture goods and products in a more sustainable way. This skills gap is one that is concentration in higher technical qualification, with almost three-quarters of manufacturers seeing green skills as needed at Level 4 and above.  

The mismatch between manufacturer’s green needs and training market solutions, the unpreparedness of the education market – has resulted in nearly half (49%) of manufacturers declaring no confidence in the education and training market, and its ability to deliver the skills needed for their business, when moving to a digital and green future. 

What next?

It’s crucial that the Government, education, training providers and manufacturers make a collaborative effort to address the green skills gap we face. Collectively, we need to do more to be ready and to take advantage of a digital and green future. To take advantage of this an opportunity, and to promote sustainability, we must prioritise education and skills policies crucial for our long-term economic growth. we are recommending Government to:

Implement a green skills tax credit to encourage manufacturers to prioritise the acquisition of green skills in the race to reach net-zero.
Prioritise rapidly increasing provision of training at Level 4 and 5 to meet the green skills demand.
Encourage the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) and Skills Productivity Board to work in partnership with the National Manufacturing Skills Taskforce.
Introduce a Help to Grow Green program for managers and leaders to support training in sustainability

Collectively, we need to, and can do more to decarbonise our sector, be ready and to take advantage of a digital and green future. 

Read the full report in partnership with Sage here, and sign up to our green principles here: 

All data is taken from Make UK / Sage, Unlocking the skills needed for a digital and green future, 2021 report, unless stated.