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Local businesses reject new 'green jobs' focus

Published: 25 May 2021 at 17:00

Green and blue swirly image, from cover of green skills report

ARU report finds that companies are expecting all roles to require green skills

Rather than focusing on creating new “green jobs”, a new report has found that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough businesses believe all jobs, across all sectors, need to become greener and green skills are necessary to kick-start the region’s economy.

The report, produced by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and commissioned by Cambridgeshire County Council’s COVID-19 recovery group, involved in-depth interviews with businesses to understand how they see both the local economy and society changing post-pandemic.

Read the full report from our Global Sustainability Institute

The Government recently launched a Green Jobs Taskforce to create two million green jobs by 2030, focusing on the environmental goods and services sector.  The ARU research, however, looked at a broader range of existing businesses. These businesses reported that all sectors will need to become greener, requiring green skills and green mindsets.

Many businesses no longer see knowledge as being as important as attributes such as how their employees think and act. Some jobs will always require specialist training, for example nursing and engineering, but for non-specialist roles, businesses envisage recruiting employees based on holistic skills – how they think and what they can do, rather than what they know.

Many employers expect to experience a skills shortage within the next one to five years, but think the greater connectivity brought about by the growth in remote working during the pandemic is reducing the dependency on geography. They also believe this may ease the problems related to recruitment in high-cost locations such as Cambridge.

An analysis of the responses shows COVID-19 to be a disrupter, responsible for accelerating changes which would otherwise have happened over a longer timeframe. Businesses are using this as an opportunity to ‘build back better’ as they transition to going green.

Businesses spoke of looking to implement greener supply chains by introducing environmentally friendly packaging and buying locally to reduce their carbon footprints, moving to lower-emission processes, and choosing low carbon/green materials when making infrastructure investment decisions.

Report co-author Dr Alison Greig, of ARU’s Global Sustainability Institute (GSI), said:

“All participants, regardless of their sector, recognised the importance of a transition to a cleaner, fairer economy and society in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. None of the organisations we spoke to directly provide goods or services to the environmental sector, so are not in a ‘green industry’, but they are all committed to ensuring their organisations become greener.

“We found that putting too much focus on creating new green jobs is likely to under-estimate other sectors’ contributions and skills requirements. Too much emphasis on new green jobs may lead to certain sectors feeling excluded or disenfranchised from this important transition. These findings are also really important for education and training providers, as they demonstrate a need to ‘green’ all curricula, rather than just add new ones.”

The businesses that took part in the report were: Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, G's, Baker Perkins Ltd, Redgate Software, Turners (Soham) Ltd, Chiltern Cold Storage Group Ltd, Hill, Abcam, and Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group.

The findings of the report are being used to help shape the development of courses at the new ARU Peterborough, opening in September 2022, with green skills being embedded across the curriculum.

Professor Ross Renton, Principal of ARU Peterborough, said:

“Green skills will have a central role in ARU Peterborough’s course portfolio. We are already having discussions with over 100 local businesses and are keen to work with more to ensure that green skills become embedded across all sectors of our economy.”

Read the report

To access the full report, please visit the Global Sustainability Institute's Green Skills page.