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Green jobs and skills - what role for local authorities?

1 March 2022

Blueprint partners Ashden and Friends of the Earth have just published a report on the action local authorities need to take on green skills and jobs as part of achieving net zero. ADEPT’s Sue Halliwell provides an overview.

Transitioning to net zero is a vast and complex agenda. For local authorities, who can do so much to lead and support transition at the local level, having skilled staff with expertise and experience is a huge concern. Not only that, there needs to be profound changes in how we work and what we do across all our communities, so to ensure this is as painless as possible, there needs to be investment, resource and leadership in our local areas into green jobs and skills. 

Ashden and Friends of the Earth commissioned Shared Intelligence to undertake a piece of research into what councils need to do. The report, Road to zero carbon: council action on green jobs and skills was published in February 2022. 

In the run up to COP26 last year, there was a big focus on green skills and jobs but not all of it was good news:

  • The Green Jobs Taskforce reported in July but its membership didn’t include anyone from local government and its recommendations did not consider the role of councils
  • More generally, there was concern about the slow pace of growth of green jobs – a PwC report found that only 125,000 job opportunities (1.2% of the total) advertised in the 12 months to July 2021 were green: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-59430224
  • The TUC warned that relatively low investment in green infrastructure and training in the UK could result in green jobs being lost to other countries: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-58519996
  • The Environmental Audit Committee’s report in October called on the government to come up with a detailed plan for delivering its ambition to create two million green jobs by 2030

For place directors, therefore, the report is very helpful and very timely as we look to make practical progress in the wake of COP26. Not only that, and given the current situation in the Ukraine and consequences for energy security, we need to secure a green recovery from the pandemic as well as a greener economy. ADEPT fundamentally believes that this green recovery must also be embedded in the emerging Levelling Up agenda and would like to work with government to help shape future policy, and make it meaningful locally.

There is a clear opportunity for local authorities to support the development of green skills in our communities and at the same time support levelling up by focusing on young people and those disadvantaged and economically vulnerable at the grass roots. Sustainability and partnership are key to this greener future, and ADEPT welcomes the key recommendations outlined in the report: 

  • Place matters – we must look to deliver green jobs and skills outcomes at the right scale and with local leadership
  • Diversity matters – we must Increase green job opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds using all the levers available to us
  • Evidence matters – we must develop local strategies based on the challenges and opportunities of local and regional economies
  • Coordination matters – all council functions and departments can play a role in boosting green jobs and skills
  • Partnership matters – we must work with key local partners and organisations to stimulate demand and pathways for green jobs and skills
  • Government matters – we need support and funding to do this

And with that last point we come to one of the most critical elements of transition – how will local authorities, undertaking such complex and massive action at the local level find the resources to meet national targets? Our key asks of government are:

  • Embed climate and environmental awareness across the curriculum at all levels
  • Proper planning and devolved funding for training for green jobs
  • Use public sector buying power to leverage green jobs into its supply chains
  • Join up various policies to promote green jobs. We ask government to make sure that its policies are aligned – for example, we want to see councils’ new responsibilities under the Environment Act (including Biodiversity Net Gain in the planning system, and the development of Local Nature Recovery Strategies) backed up with funding and plans to increase capacity and skills in these sectors. 
  • Build in diversity and inclusion from the start – this is a key part of the just transition to a low carbon economy, and although we are seeing some progress now, in the past the environmental and STEM professions have lacked diversity and inclusion.

I think we all agree it’s not just about funding (although that helps!). In our recent conversations with government departments, ADEPT continues to ask for joined up working and policy alignment. To achieve net zero requires whole place thinking and meaningful partnership – how all our strategies and policies beginning with procurement and purchasing at the local level to meeting national targets - work together. 

I’d encourage everyone to read the report – there’s also a webinar on YouTube here.