Sarah Olney MP
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Treasury, and Business and Industrial Strategy
Senior Policy and Research Manager, Policy Connect
Despite the plethora of academic opportunities and qualifications available, the UK is increasingly facing a skills gap, which is stalling progress in the transition to a green economy.
This year’s school leavers will have the choice of a variety of academic and vocational qualifications, including the latest T-Level offerings, which incorporate a 45-day industry placement. Why then, at a time when there are more learning pathways available than ever before, do we find the skills gap widening?
Challenges resulting from policy change
England’s skills system is a complex network which has been subject to frequent policy changes over the last 40 years. Indeed, the Institute for Fiscal Studies recently noted that the skills sector has been in an ‘almost permanent state of revolution.’
Last year’s Skills Act saw some welcome improvements including a requirement for skills providers to work with local employers to deliver on local skills needs, along with a greater emphasis on green skills.
At least 27,000 engineers will be needed by 2028 to meet heat pump installation targets.
Green skills needed to deliver net zero
From electric vehicles to carbon capture and storage, the manufacturing sector plays a crucial role in creating the products and technologies that will help reach our net zero targets. However, the Government’s aims for a Green Industrial Revolution are being held back by a lack of skills — particularly those in STEM subjects.
For example, the charity Nesta estimates that at least 27,000 engineers will be needed by 2028 to meet heat pump installation targets. This would require more engineers to be trained every year than currently exist in the whole industry.
Make manufacturing more appealing
It will not be possible to close these green skills gaps by seeking to recruit graduates from existing talent pools. The manufacturing sector must therefore make itself more attractive to learners that are under-represented in the sector, particularly women and those of minority backgrounds. Alongside this, businesses must seek to upskill their existing workforce to meet the needs of the future green economy.
Securing a high-skilled and sustainable workforce for the manufacturing sector is the focus of the Manufacturing Commission’s current inquiry. The Commission is Chaired by Lord Bilimoria of Chelsea and will report on its findings in the autumn.