Bain: 4 million UK workers to need retraining over next decade to support nation's transition to low-carbon economy, which will require government-business collaboration; transition will create 1 million new sustainability-related jobs by 2030

Sample article from our Sustainability & Social Responsibility

January 29, 2024 (press release) –

 
  • Four million workers in the UK will need retraining by 2030 to support the nation’s transition to a low-carbon economy – one in eight of the nation’s workforce
  • Around one million roles will be created by the net zero transition by 2030. Energy and home heating sectors set to create 500,000 roles alone

LONDON—January 29, 2024—The UK has significantly underestimated the scale of workforce reskilling required over the next decade, with four million green roles1 required to unlock the opportunities of the UK's net zero transition. Under current policy, the UK’s training ecosystem will not be able to handle this once-in-a-generation green reskilling gap, requiring closer partnership between the government and businesses to deliver net zero.

The findings come in a new report from Bain & Company, Accelerating Together: How the UK Workforce Can Get Net Zero Done. The analysis reveals that just a third of new sustainable jobs in the UK will be direct replacements for existing roles, with the majority requiring some level of retraining. The report sets out how to meet the required scale and pace of reskilling.

“Any economic transition on this scale will have a disruptive impact on the workforce of a nation, but it is the unprecedented pace of the net zero transition that brings a unique set of challenges,” said Julian Critchlow, a Bain & Company partner in the firm’s Energy practice and a member of Bain’s Energy & Carbon Transition Centre. “To put the transition into perspective, the UK’s efforts to reduce coal use took 60 years and impacted the nation’s economy, politics, and communities – the transition to net zero is set to take place within a period of just over a decade.”

Meeting net zero’s workforce challenges

The transition will create one million new sustainability-driven employment roles by 2030, against the predicted 240,000 jobs that are anticipated to be lost in carbon-intensive industries. The energy and home heating sector are set to provide more than 500,000 new roles alone, with a further 200,000 coming from efforts linked to decarbonising transport. As many as 170,000 new heat pump installer roles will be required, with gas boiler engineers able to retrain for these positions in about three days.

New roles needed to install energy efficiency measures, build electricity infrastructure and to manufacture and repair LEVs will, on average, be higher paying than the jobs they replace and could also result in a 2% to 3% increase in UK economic output by 2030 (as measured by gross value added – GVA).

While the UK’s net zero transition will create new green jobs across the country, with every region expecting an estimated 2% boost to employment, jobs won't always be located where existing workers are currently based. This is likely to be especially true in manufacturing-heavy areas such as the West Midlands and Scotland. These regions will lose jobs in automotive and oil & gas production – but they are also likely to find new opportunities in electric vehicle manufacturing and offshore wind.

Innovating to close the reskilling gap

Reskilling will be crucial to capture these new employment opportunities driven by the net zero transition. While a third of legacy roles should have direct replacements in the green economy, most roles will require some level of retraining. The challenge lies in the scale and pace of reskilling required, and ensuring training provides clear pathways to green roles and green job demand holds strong.

Bain’s research identifies a number of potential policy levers (including drawing on approaches seen around the world) that can help the UK to close the current skills gap and accelerate its progress towards net zero. Most important among these levers will be clear incentives for businesses to engage with the transition. The potential levers include:

  • Green reskilling demand incentives: ensuring a smooth transition to a green economy requires clear and consistent policies to spark demand for green products and services. Public procurement can further incentivize this shift by incorporating green reskilling criteria into its processes. The US Federal Government sets an example here, leveraging its massive purchasing power to mandate lower-carbon materials, fostering green demand and a skilled workforce ready to meet it.
  • Green champions scheme: a green champion scheme would incentivize companies to train beyond their own needs, offering opportunities for public training and workforce development. This would encourage private business participation, with the government offering financial support and holding companies accountable through skills reporting metrics thus creating a reputational incentive for employers to engage with the transition.
  • Fit-for-the-future training pathways: a national ‘skills passport’ based on mutually recognized standards, like Scotland's initiative for transitioning oil and gas workers, could help to smooth worker transitions between sectors. By working with industry bodies, the government could ensure these passports are valued by employers, boosting workers confidence in reskilling efforts and opening doors to attractive job opportunities.

Notes to Editors

  1.  Derived from Bain UK Workforce Model, assumes the workforce remains same size as today (~32 million)

Media contacts 

To arrange an interview or for any questions, please contact: 

Gary Duncan (London) — Email: gary.duncan@bain.com

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