The University and College Union (UCU) have said the government must invest in green skills to drive the economy through the impact of the Covid pandemic and ongoing climate crisis.
UCU was responding to a report published by the Labour Party which called for a stimulus package to train workers and deliver high skilled jobs. The union welcomed calls for greater emphasis on adult education and more co-ordination locally amongst providers, as well as stronger rights for workers to ask for time off to retrain.
The report says that skills shortages threaten the UK’s ability to transition to net zero. New technologies and the changing UK economy are shifting the demand for skills. The CBI has estimated that nine in 10 employees will need to reskill by 2030. And in the energy sector, the transition to net zero is estimated to require 260,000 new roles and a further 140,000 jobs to replace those leaving the workforce.
Even with recent changes to the furlough scheme, forecasts suggest that unemployment will rise from 1.6 million to 2.6 million, by the second quarter of 2021.
They argue that to deal with the jobs crisis while also meeting the skills needs of the low carbon recovery, a National Retraining Strategy is needed to boost apprenticeship numbers alongside other forms of education and training.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:
Investing in green skills and jobs is a critical step in addressing the climate crisis and in helping get the UK back on track economically following the impact of Covid. There is huge potential for our low-carbon industries to generate jobs and opportunities that the country so desperately needs, but this can only be done with proper commitment from government.
The UK’s future is not as a low-wage, low-skill economy and we need to invest now in the industries that will see us emerge as a dominant force in the future. Further, adult and higher education are uniquely placed to provide green skills training but must be given the necessary funding and support to do so.