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UK’s First Regional Net Zero Skills Plan To Unlock Green Jobs Bonanza In The North West

Net Zero 5/17/2022 12:00:00 AM

A green careers event is also planned later this year

  • New pan-regional group to coordinate skills response to climate change challenge
  • North West to develop Net Zero Skills Charter and action plan to help future generations into green jobs, part of a 660,000 low-carbon workforce

The UK’s first regional skills plan is to be developed in the North West to ensure young people can fully benefit from a green jobs bonanza.

Businesses and universities have set up a new pan-regional group to tackle the issue of creating a 660,000-strong workforce that will help reduce carbon emissions. It will work up a plan of practical measures to support both younger generations and those already in work into new, green jobs as they emerge.

The group will develop a Net Zero Skills Charter, which will identify and address the skills gaps and put an action plan in place to make sure business and industry have access to the talent they need to successfully transition to and succeed in a net zero economy.

The move is a collaboration between key organisations including Net Zero North West (NZNW), the North West Business Leadership Team (NWBLT) and academic institutions including Manchester Metropolitan University.  A seismic shift is needed to achieve Net Zero in a ‘just’ way and that includes equipping today’s workers and businesses as much as designing tomorrow’s.

A flagship green careers event is also being planned to take place later this year in the North West, marking one year on from COP26 being held in the UK.

Carl Ennis, Chair of Net Zero North West and CEO, Siemens GB&I, said:

“The North West is already leading the UK’s net zero future, slashing carbon emissions and carving a new path by creating a green industrial economy with a workforce of over 660,000. But, the availability of the right skills will be a significant risk to reaching our climate goals if we don’t act now.

“We’re spearheading a joined-up approach between industry, education and the region’s elected leaders to make sure we have the right people and skills available at the right time to benefit from a wave of green jobs on the horizon. Such a joined-up approach, through a Net Zero Skills Charter, will ensure we set the blueprint for how to train and retain low carbon talent in the region, and then export that expertise out to the rest of the UK, Europe and the world.”

With the UK needing to meet legally-binding carbon targets, wide-ranging interventions are planned to cut emissions across all sectors. The skills plan will set out the jobs and skills needed to deliver planned interventions and investment in areas such as power generation; transport; homes and buildings; and industry. Other jobs will stem from enabling decarbonisation – such as science and climate change innovation – as well as climate adaption, such as flood defences, retrofitting buildings and engineering of structures to adapt to increasing temperatures.

Research by Manchester Metropolitan University in partnership with NZNW and NWBLT identified that a skills plan will be critical to managing the transition to net zero to make sure students, individuals, and businesses prosper as the UK addresses the climate change challenge. 

The research:

  • Identifies skills requirements in the North West for a net zero industrial cluster
  • Identifies the pipeline of cross-cutting and sector specific skills that will need to be developed including digital, electrical, engineering, project management and new technologies among many others
  • Outlines the opportunities and challenges that need to be addressed to futureproof the North West economy
  • Details next steps to create a Net Zero Charter and 2030 action plan to be led by employers, educational institutions, and regional leaders to address the issue

Professor Malcolm Press, Vice-Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University, said:

“Net zero is a huge opportunity, not only to create a better future for our planet, but to create thousands of better futures for our people. This report is an important reminder that, while carbon transition will see some technologies and jobs disappear, it will also create new roles and new technologies. The North West, once the cradle of the industrial revolution, can once again lead our nation and our world in imagining and creating a prosperous future. The challenge now is for businesses and educators, such as Manchester Metropolitan University, to work together to design and deliver the training and education needed to deliver a 660,000-strong workforce.”

The report follows a North West Climate Change Careers summit, organised by Agent Academy, in partnership with NWBLT and NZNW. The event was hosted by young people and brought businesses and future talent together, to explore the opportunities that emerging ‘green jobs’ will bring.

Over 300 attendees were inspired by the fast-paced talks and interactive content from leading North West employers, including Bruntwood, Peel Ports, Baxi, Arup, Kingspan, Promake, Dsposal and CGI.

Gemma Sparkes, 22, a learner at Agent Academy and host on the day, said:

“There has been a lot of talk about the job opportunities that the green economy will bring, but often this doesn’t resonate with me as it seems out of reach. The event was refreshing as I got to listen to people like me, who are in the early years of their careers, share their journeys and give insight into how I might follow a similar path.”  

NZNW has previously outlined how the North West could become the first net zero region by 2040, supported by a workforce of 660,000 new and existing jobs across the North West.

Professor Eunice Simmons, Vice Chancellor at The University of Chester, was recently appointed People and Skills Chair for the North West Business Leadership Team. She said:

“With efforts being made to cut carbon emissions from all sectors, we’re entering a new era of green opportunity. But we must equip both those in work today and our future generations with the right skills that will be needed. The time to do that is now, not when the low-carbon industries are operational and struggling to recruit.

“That’s why we’re collaborating across the region to make sure employers work with the public sector and education providers to plan for a low-carbon future. The plan, the UK’s first regional approach, will put forward practical steps such as better matching qualifications to industry requirements.”