Upskilling for a Green economy

The shift to a green economy is being driven by government policy, climate change, and technologies which when combined, fuel the consumer market for green products and services. Inevitably, this shift increases the demand for employees to be reskilled or upskilled to meet the needs of the future. According to the UN Environment Programme’s Global Guidance for Education on Green Jobs Report (2021) the transition to a green economy will add an estimated 60 million new jobs to the market by 2030.

The Green Jobs Survey conducted by the National Statistics Office (2020) estimates that in the local context 7,235 workers are currently engaged in green jobs which are mainly within the renewable energy, energy-efficiency, and waste management related sectors. The National Employment Policy 2021-2030 also acknowledged that for EU targets to be met, the local commitment to Green Jobs is going to be increased in order for a green economy to flourish locally. 

The World Economic Forum’s Youth Recovery Plan 2021 states that almost half of young individuals believe they don’t have the right skill set to guarantee them an adequate job over the next decade. PwC’s 2021 Hopes and Fears Survey also shows that employees are worried about their job security, with about a third of workers anxious about the future. This PwC study also found that 77% of employees are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain in response to new technologies in the workplace.

Research has demonstrated that the impact of environmental policies on economic growth is minimal when the labour market effectively adjusts to employment opportunities and losses. Inversely, such policies come at a substantial cost when employees in declining sectors become increasingly unemployable. In order to avoid the latter circumstance, organisations need  to upskill or reskill their employees in order to have a more flexible and resilient workforce. 

This transformation can also serve as an opportunity for governments, higher education institutions and private businesses to make the employment market more just, diverse, and inclusive for low skilled workers, minorities and for those from low socio-economic backgrounds.

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Green Upskilling Initiatives

By the Government

The government has a pivotal role to play in the success of a green economic transformation. CEDEFOP’s Skills for Green Jobs (2018) accredits the success of a green economy and green employment to the general economic cycle, trends in government policy, and governmental subsidies and incentives. 

Through public policy, governments can also regulate the transformation in order to minimise the disparities in employment between declining and emerging sectors through initiatives such as active labour market policies focusing on upskilling and reskilling the workforce in declining sectors. The urgency of adopting proactive upskilling and reskilling schemes at all levels is very clearly acknowledged by the European Green Deal which aims to create sustainable, local, and well-paid jobs across Europe. 

Some reports, such as WEF’s Youth Recovery Plan 2021 propose government initiatives such as tax credits to organisations who upskill their workforce. This is echoed locally within the National Employment Policy 2021-2030 which proposed leveraging European funding in order to provide financial incentives for the creation of green jobs.  

The WEF’s Youth Recovery Plan 2021 also proposed the creation of an online skills aggregator around the future upskilling and reskilling needs of the area. The latter suggestion has been successfully implemented by France’s Ministry for Environment through ‘The French National Observatory for Jobs and Occupations of the Green Economy (Onemev)’. Other countries, such as Estonia, have included a green skills framework as part of their skills anticipation process. The creation of such a framework was proposed locally through the ‘Greening our Economy - Achieving a sustainable future report’.

By Private Businesses

While public policies have far reaching benefits, private businesses have a key role to play by future proofing their business operations and also their workforce.  Businesses must adapt to the long-term trends which are shaping economic activity, namely;

  1. Technological and business operation changes are becoming more resource efficient and less harmful to the environment

  2. Changes to overcome the physical effects of climate change (e.g. heat stress)

  3. Changing consumer habits and promoting more sustainable products and services

Changing consumer habits and promoting more sustainable products and services.

Many private businesses are already on the path of transformation by upskilling their employees to meet the demands of the future. Through upskilling and reskilling initiatives, businesses would be investing in a solution that serves their own organisation, it’s employees and also the community at large. Although significant investment is required for upskilling, it outweighs the potential costs of not upskilling. This could include anxiety in the workforce, redundancy packages for those employees whose jobs are no longer required,  lack of motivation and engagement amongst the workforce, and non-delivery of business goals.  In such cases, a balance between training the new workforce and retraining the current one is crucial to ensure sustainability as organisations strive to future-proof their business.

Businesses need to take control of their destiny by focusing their effort on building their capability to embrace the opportunities provided by the green economic transformation.

At a Higher Education Level

Higher Education Institutions should also stay abreast of new technological developments and the specialisation this transformation will require. This can inform considerations to amend curricula or offer entirely new fields of study to combat the foreseeable technical skills gaps.

Higher education institutions also have a role to play as they develop the next generation of leaders. Apart from a technical skills gap, educational institutions should account for what the Green Jobs Report (UNEP) refers to as a ‘management challenge’ - calling for the development of awareness, new perspectives, and managerial capacities. In this regard, managers need to be willing and able to adapt to change and utilise their workforce’s ability in the most optimal way. 

Moreover, educational institutions should ensure that Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) literacy and an understanding of ethics are central in their curricula in the fields of business, technology and leadership. This will help to ensure that the future workforce is equipped with the right skills to work in a green economy.

Conclusion

Striking a balance between government, educational institutions and private business action will ensure that the economy transitions to be more sustainable at a much faster, more effective and just pace.

Contact us

Claudine Attard

Claudine Attard

Director, Advisory, PwC Malta

Tel: +356 2564 7026

Mark Grech

Mark Grech

Advisory, PwC Malta

Tel: +356 2564 4510

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