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Future of Manufacturing Q1 2022

How will green skills help us reach the UK’s net zero target?

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Stephen Phipson

Chief Executive, Make UK

The manufacturing sector has a critical role to play in meeting net zero, with analysis estimating that over 1.2 million green jobs could exist in the green economy.


Whilst the long-term 2050 goal still seems far away, what we do in this next decade will determine whether we will be successful in achieving this target. The 2030s will be ‘the defining decade’ and to achieve what is needed in 2030, we need to take significant action in the next five years.

Turning threat into opportunity will be a key to achieving net zero in the manufacturing industry. Understanding and equipping our business with the green skills needed to complete our transition to a digital and green future will be fundamental to this.

Equipping workforce with green skills

Our evidence shows manufacturers have made a stellar effort to expand upon the digital and green skills within the sector. Manufacturers have shown an acute awareness of green skills, with almost two-thirds (62%) identifying and equipping their workforce with the skills they need to manufacture sustainably, and 70% training employees within the last 12 months to improve digital skills, but we need to do more.

Turning threat into opportunity will be a key to achieving net zero in the manufacturing industry.

We have an acute shortage of engineers who have experience in designing new products for the circular economy and of course, this includes new process technology expertise for the recycling of products and replacing carbon based materials with new alternatives. Innovation will need to be systemic in these process technologies as well as in new product development.

Innovative skills in high demand

The Green Jobs Taskforce highlighted project management, change management and leadership, education management and communication skills as vital non-STEM green skills required. This mirrors Make UK findings which showed 72% of manufacturers ranked innovation skills as the most needed additional skill to achieve sustainable manufacturing. The adoption and diffusion of new technologies, which are progressing, can support manufacturers to explore different ways of reaching their own net zero targets. 

Effective leadership and management skills are also key to the green transition, and this is why it is no surprise to see that almost six in 10 manufacturers require management skills in order to manufacture goods and products more sustainably.

Addressing green skills gap

It is crucial that the Government, education, training providers and manufacturers make a collaborative effort to address the green skills gap we face. Collectively, we need to take advantage of this opportunity to promote sustainability, we must prioritise education and skills policies for our long-term economic growth.

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