Green skills shortage: what’s the answer?

Ian Rippin, CEO of MCS, looks at how the industry can upskill the installers needed to work on the low-carbon heating systems that will deliver net zero:

Earlier this month, we invited stakeholders with interests and expertise in the domestic renewable energy sector to our brand-new headquarters at Sci-Tech Daresbury.

To coincide with our official office opening, we held this event during Green Careers Week on 7-12 November to highlight the importance of skills in the green energy sector. We heard from a host of guest speakers about the roles they are playing in our shared drive to upskill the industry and ensure competency through robust and effective training.

We’re all aware that there is a divide between government ambitions for renewable technology installations and the current installer base available to reach these targets. How we all come together as one across the sector is the key to resolving this issue.

Playing our part

During Solar & Storage Live last month, we transported and hosted over 50 students from The City of Liverpool College to the event in Birmingham to showcase the career opportunities available in the solar sector. Encouragingly, 75% of these students have since said they are seriously considering a career in the industry as they were inspired to make a difference and saw for themselves the benefits of future-proofing their careers in a fast-growing industry.

It is clear that the talent and potential our industry needs for the future is already out there. What is important for us, is educating the next generation of renewable installers and helping them make informed decisions about their own future for their own good and ours.

We need to get in front of more young people looking to make decisions around their career opportunities as well as retraining installers who already have the skillset to transfer over to renewables. We should act as a guiding light for people looking to diversify their careers and make a significant impact in the transition to Net Zero.

Industry leaders, leading the way

This is exactly what our speakers were invited in to discuss this month, and here’s the insight they shared on the night.

I opened up the evening by celebrating the continued growth of MCS, showcasing our investment in North West green jobs and sharing the work from other organisations we work alongside to promote career opportunities across the low carbon sector. Making the workforce more diverse is also an important factor for me personally, and I believe we are demonstrating this here already at MCS HQ which is 60% female-led.

I also updated all our guests on the upcoming MCS Low Carbon Heating Technician Apprenticeship which will launch next year and provide hands-on training and skills development to create a dedicated pipeline of talent to the renewable heating industry.

Our first guest speaker on the night was Harry Bowles from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) who encouraged people from all walks of lives to consider retraining or entering our exciting sector. He expressed how attitudes are the first and foremost attribute the DWP look for when hiring people, the skill set can be built around this. Harry reiterated that a green job is perfect for those who enjoy being active, working behind the scenes and seek variety day-to-day. Watch this video co-created by MCS, DWP and our industry partners for more info.

Next up was Toby Shaw who talked through IEMA’s Green Careers Hub, which allows jobseekers to stay up to date with opportunities in the green sector. The hub also provides information on required skills by region, as well as the priority areas by sector. Toby reiterated that over 170,000 low-carbon jobs are predicted to be in place by 2050 and to get to net zero by 2050, just over 60,000 energy generation and network jobs are needed.

Finally, we heard from Jim Johnson, about the ECA’s ‘Leading the Charge’ project. This digital series explores progress in the electrical industry towards decarbonisation and opportunities for investment in net zero solutions such as EV charging and solar PV. Jim explained how the work of installers is crucial in ensuring the transition happens, but urgent progress is needed to keep up with the pace of change required for the safe and efficient switch to an electrified future. This progress requires advances in innovation, better multi-disciplinary working, recruiting the future workforce now and a focus on upskilling. You can access the ECA’s digital series here.

Collaboration is key

Working together as businesses is the only way we can harness and grow skills, provide incentives, and raise awareness about training opportunities across clean heat and retrofit. By taking a ‘whole sector’ approach, providing long-term certainty and supporting industry growth, we should aim to make building energy efficiency and clean heat a national priority. If we build and sustain a skilled workforce, the rest will come.

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