Consistent government policies are key to successful green technologies and skills supply

Press Releases

21 Jun 2012

A new IES report has found that learning provision for key occupations looks set to be affected by the continuing evolution of a low carbon and resource-efficient economy. The authors highlighted that demand for 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 research, undertaken by the Institute for Employment Studies for the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop), analysed nine different job roles in eight EU member states to identify trends in skills needs and training and look at the broader implications of green technologies for industry. The report, Green Skills and Environmental Awareness in Vocational Education and Training, makes policy recommendations that will help businesses take advantage of opportunities presented by this transition to a greener economy and ensure that future skills needs are met.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Energy and environment policy appear to be the most powerful factors in influencing demand for skills in sectors directly affected, such as construction. New green industries are highly sensitive to government regulation to help support them while a market develops. Businesses and consumers need be informed of the benefits of new technologies to help stimulate demand.
  • While ongoing recession in some EU countries means that few skills shortages exist in the short term (with the exception of Germany), we may fail to prevent shortages of workers for higher-skilled occupations if steps are not taken to start training people now.
  • Some occupations, including electricians and insulation workers, are having trouble attracting young people into careers because of, often inaccurate, perceptions that working conditions are dirty and uncomfortable. This situation is made worse by some shortages of students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematical subjects.

Annette Cox, Associate Director at the Institute for Employment Studies and lead author of the report, says: "It can take a long time to see pay-offs for consumers looking to invest in green and low-carbon technologies, such as solar power, and consumers are already tightly squeezed financially.

‘When governments change policies and the subsidies available for these technologies, it can have a big impact on consumer demand, which in turn affects the capability of firms and training providers to plan and deliver training for the workforce. Consistency in policy is key to the successful development of these industries.

‘The shortages of people studying science, engineering, technology and maths could eventually limit our ability to develop and apply new technologies. While at the moment experts reported few areas facing major shortages, the years of training needed for some positions mean that if we do not tackle the challenges now, we may be storing up problems for the future.

‘It is worth young people considering careers in industries that may benefit from green technologies. These are challenging times for those entering the labour market for the first time and they would benefit from using high quality careers information, advice and guidance to help them make the most of the opportunities available in the low carbon economy.’