Centre for Energy Policy Energy conversations: Do we have the necessary skilled labour to enable a net zero economy?

On Thursday 27 February, the Centre for Energy Policy organised ‘Do we have the necessary skilled labour to enable a net zero economy?’ conversation, which is part of the Energy Conversation series of events. Read the Centre for Energy Policy team's reflections on this popular event below.


Dr Rebecca Ford
Centre for Energy Policy

I think the event raised a number of interesting questions.  What will happen to the current workforce, especially those who work in the gas industry, and what needs to be put in place to support them to transition to new energy jobs? Can we learn from past practice on what has worked and what has not? For example, training smart meters installers to install EV charging stations. Moreover, how can we build this adaptability into future jobs and training?  More thought also needs to be given to the best ways to build capacity and grow a workforce.  For example, how could apprenticeships work better and offer a valued and recognised alternative to University.


Dr Oluwafisayo Alabi Dr Oluwafisayo Alabi
Research Associate, Centre for Energy Policy

In some sectors skills can be transferred and/or adapted for the net-zero transition and where any further specialisations are required, there is the opportunity to exploit and develop the existing educational, training and apprenticeships programmes and schemes.

However, this is not the whole story. The conversationalists also raised the urgency and need to reset the question in terms of ‘what does the demand for skilled labour in a net zero context actually look like? In order the words, is the enabling environment in place?

For the demand side to materialise, there is a need to prevent silo thinking or dialogue. Rather, begin integrated and systematic thinking as well dialogues between key actors/stakeholders (i.e. citizens, government, trade unions, industry and local authorities, etc.) for better clarity on what we want our net-zero economy to actually look like. This is crucial to adequately prepare and position the labour force to enable, support and sustain the net zero transition.


Dr Christian Calvillo
Research Associate, Centre for Energy Policy

There are big concerns from the work force in a number of sectors, that the promised jobs for the energy transition won’t materialise and lots of people will be left out. Certainly, this is a very real concern, fuelled partly by bad past experiences from renewables. However, I believe that if we are serious of our net zero ambitions we would need a considerable increase in work force and all this skilled and ‘unskilled’ labour will be in very high demand. If I was 18 again, I would train to install and service heat pumps!


Dr Antonios Katris Dr Antonios Katris
Research Associate, Centre for Energy Policy

The transition to net zero is coming in a policy environment that different options have been used to achieve the desired results with varying degrees of success. For example, there could be requirement for projects to have a minimum number of local employees. Or, more broadly, policy options like the aprenticip levy could be used in the context of just transition and a similar policy tool to be developed for university and college scholarships.

The important point though is to have clear indications on the pathway that the transition to net zero will follow. To decide which way we wish to go and then make sure that as much of the equipment that we will need for the selected pathway as possible will be manufactured within the country. 


Constantin Brod
Researcher, Centre for Energy Policy

There seems to be an agreement on the consideration that the transition to Net Zero will come with challenges in providing the skilled labour needed for this. However, when it comes to the understanding on how easy or hard these skilled workers can be found there are a range of disagreements. Firstly, it has been claimed that there is a discrepancy in the understanding of academics and policy makers on the one side and the general public on the other side on how (fast) skills can be transferred into other professions. Secondly, there is a perceived lack of sufficient apprenticeship placements to train the needed workers in combination with the retirement of large numbers of specialised workers in various trades. Thirdly, there is also a degree of uncertainty among individuals considering trade apprenticeship on whether their skills in a future (Net Zero) economy will still be needed. All of these factors add to the suspicion that there is and will be a significant challenge in providing the needed skilled labour to accomplish the transition to Net Zero.


Tags: Energy