What do Youth around the world look for in a job? Good pay, decent benefits, not-too-long hours, geographical proximity… but what else? Sustainability. Young adults worldwide are starting to envision careers that would take sustainable action to combat climate change. So what is stopping this potential surge of green career paths from materialising?
In the past couple of years, many surveys have been conducted around the world to determine the stance most Millenials and Generation Z hold regarding the role of sustainability in their career.
In 2020, Good Energy, a UK-based company, surveyed 1000 young people to do just that. Their findings showed that 57% of young people want to work for an environmentally sustainable business.
In Asia Pacific, an Accenture survey showed that 77% of young people aspire to have a green job within the next ten years.
The National Apprenticeship Week survey found that almost three-quarters of teens and young adults seek career paths that would enable them to impact the environment positively.
There is a clear drive amongst young adults to pursue a more sustainable and climate-focused career path. Nonetheless, the world is not yet equipped to allow such a surge to become possible.
A combination of a lack of skills, jobs, opportunities and institutional encouragement leads to a mismatch in labour demand and supply.
Although governments are trying to create new jobs that would fit the “green job” description, they struggle to match the demand.
The International Labour Organization expects 24 million green jobs to be created by 2030 — a net increase of 18 million. The Local Government Association anticipated 700,000 new green jobs to be created in the UK alone. In Asia Pacific, Accenture’s survey showed that 32.6 million green jobs are expected to appear over the next ten years.
Despite this significant new pool of jobs, it will still not be enough to meet the demands of the Youth. This is especially problematic in the Asia Pacific region where the aspiration to work in green industries is strikingly higher than in Europe and the US, as shown by the graph below. There, the green transition over the next decade will require far more jobs to be created than the market will be able to provide.
In the UK, despite a majority of young adults wanting to find employment in a green industry, less than 10% actually manage to apply for or become employed in a job that addresses climate change. One of the problems felt by over half of the respondents was the lack of green jobs in their local area.
Another disbalance that hinders the transition to a greener economy is the substantial skills gap. Similarly to the skills mismatch that occurred during the Industrial Revolution or the decline of coal mines, the green revolution now requires skills to be either restructured, redirected or developed.
Technology application, adaptation and maintenance skills are in high demand and need to be targeted to fit profiles of greener occupations. This entails a crucial need for training and education to equip workers with the necessary skills to match the new jobs created.
What can institutions do to facilitate this transition?
High-performing companies are starting to recognise that focusing on the longer term, stakeholders’ perceptions and the environment is just as good for business as it is for the planet.
Companies must attract motivated young people with various skills dedicated to helping the ecological revolution. To achieve this, many industries have started to make public commitments to sustainability.
They are now being held more accountable to execute their promises about ESG targets. With this new agenda comes a new possibility for investment.
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However, regulatory and policy uncertainty, a lack of government incentives, and an unclear and fragmented market is holding back investors in the private sector. Incentives such as tax credits for companies investing in reskilling or upskilling workers could go a long way.
Governments must facilitate and encourage investment opportunities in the sustainability sector because relying solely on government funding will not suffice to achieve all the targets countries have set. Investment from multilateral organisations, financial institutions and the corporate sector is also necessary.
Institutions also need to support skill development by providing training programs, funded internships and apprenticeships in environmental initiatives. The Government’s role in providing access to these programs is crucial.
A recent UK survey showed that most electricians wanted to train in photo-voltaic installations. Unfortunately, they were all reluctant to pay the 2050 EUR training fee for the course. Financial help could facilitate the skill restructuring of many workers and contribute to the green economy.
It is also vital to promote the growth of green jobs in a homogenous and inclusive manner. Geographically, certain localities are deprived of green job opportunities, an issue that must be overcome.
Similarly, access to skills development and education must be equal and inclusive. “If well managed, we have a unique opportunity to not only protect the environment but advance gender equality and intergenerational equity, at the same time as creating millions of jobs,” says Jessica Cooke, Climate Change Advisor at Plan International.
Although most young adults are keen to work in “green jobs”, the economy is not yet equipped to allow this transition to occur. Many governments and organisations promise millions of new jobs to be created in the green economy. Unfortunately, creating new jobs is not the only piece of the puzzle – actively taking measures to facilitate the restructuring and development of a skilled workforce is crucial as well.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Rampion Offshore Wind Farm. Featured Photo Credit: Nicholas Doherty.