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UK faces green skills shortage as net zero deadline looms, says OVO

Green skills shortage could threaten net zero
Image: Adobe Stock / ultramansk

At a recent Business in the Community (BITC) event, Charlotte Eaton, Chief People Officer at OVO, highlighted the urgent need for a national initiative to bridge the green skills gap in the UK. 

New findings from OVO, conducted in collaboration with Energy and Utility Skills, suggest that the UK may need up to 362,000 new workers by 2035 to adequately decarbonise residential areas and meet environmental goals. Despite the apparent demand, the research reveals that only 7% of UK workers have received training in green skills, with a mere 30% aware of what these skills entail.

This gap has prompted calls for significant educational and professional reforms to prepare for future green jobs. The data shows a keen interest among workers, with 21% having requested green skills training and 61% believing such skills would enhance their employability.

Younger demographics particularly feel left out of the loop, with 75% of those aged 25-34 wishing for more exposure to green skills during their education.

In response, OVO is committing to training 15,000 workers in green roles, including advisors, surveyors, and installers. This initiative is part of a broader strategy to integrate green skills into education and apprenticeships, aiming to expedite the rollout of heat pumps, solar panels, and EV chargers across the UK.

Furthermore, OVO has proposed several policy recommendations to the government to foster a greener workforce:

  • Enhancing the visibility of green roles in primary and secondary education through career talks and fairs.
  • Improving careers advice and training for advisors on green job opportunities and entry paths.
  • Including green standards in recertification assessments to ensure workforce compatibility with new technologies.
  • Identifying and addressing regional workforce and skills shortages through local partnerships.
  • Collaborating with industry to align existing qualifications with the demands of green job entrants.

Charlotte Eaton commented on the importance of this initiative, “People are at the centre of our mission at OVO, which is why we are committed to investing in our teams through learning and reskilling opportunities. Without significant investment in the green workforce, the UK risks losing its place as a world leader in net zero. We need more people to help us on our mission to install electric vehicle chargers, heat pumps, solar and insulate homes across the UK.

“The green skills gap facing our country is one of the biggest challenges we’re facing as a country, and we can’t do it alone. Our ambitious plan is pioneering a new generation who have the opportunity to shape the green skilled industry for many years to come.”

Gudrun Cartwright, BITC’s Climate Action Director, also emphasised the broader implications of this skills shortage, “Developing the skills needed to deliver a just transition to a net zero, resilient future is critical for every business. While most people think of the technical skills needed to retrofit buildings, install renewable energy or service electric vehicles, BITC’s work with businesses has identified that these skills are just the tip of the iceberg.”

“There is a real need for business leaders to build the culture and capabilities to enable their current and future workforce to be flexible and better able to adapt to a changing world. Embracing essential skills for all, empowering changemakers with the authority to innovate and open doors to people who may have barriers to employment are key actions to ensure that this transformation is fair and inclusive. So, a new approach to leadership is vital. One that holds the gaze of the scale of transformation needed, has the humility to recognise that nobody has all the answers and that prioritises the responsibility that businesses have to be part of accelerating progress towards a net zero, resilient future where businesses prosper, and people and nature thrive.”

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