The Employment Support Sector and Net Zero
By Calum Carson, from Racing to Net Zero – the role of post-16 education and skills.
The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) is the representative body for the
employment support sector. The sector has a central role to play in the UK’s challenge
to become net zero by 2050, and our members have a series of tools at their disposal to
contribute to this aim.
To reach net zero, every sector needs to examine their regular practices, and establish more
sustainable forms of working. The employment support sector is no different, but through
its work it can also facilitate the greening of a wider number of other industries, and help
prepare the UK workforce for the transition to a net zero economy. It has a key part to play
in translating the promises of political leaders into detailed reality.
The employment support sector encompasses a huge range of specialist providers delivering
skills provision, employability programmes, and in-work support, among a myriad of other
services. They deliver services to people at every stage of their employability journey, from
those ready and able to start work, to those already in work and seeking to progress towards
Job Search leading to Green Jobs
Through the establishment of an ongoing dialogue with both commissioners of employability
provision and employers themselves, the sector can help to facilitate the road to net zero
by prioritising job search and employability schemes that lead jobseekers into Green Jobs.
Skills Training leading to Green Jobs
Skills training providers within the sector can also do their own part, by developing new
pathways that can equip individuals with the skills and training that will enable them to thrive
within such roles. Through the formation of such programmes, the employment support
sector can play a vital role in helping workers better exploit the new roles and opportunities
that technologies such as carbon capture, hydrogen and bioenergy can bring.
Examples of policymakers, employability providers, and employers working together in such
a joined-up manner can already be found within other nations. In Germany, for example, a
“Coal Commission” was created in 2018 to identify those roles that would be most impacted
by the phasing out of coal-fired power stations by 2038, and how new Green Jobs could be
created in alternative energy industries such as green hydrogen. Providers and employers
then worked together to identify the relevant individuals most suitable for these roles.
Net Jobs in Net Zero
We would urge the UK Government to learn from such examples, and to strengthen the
links between commissioners, providers, and employers to better plan for and exploit the
strategic employment opportunities that the road to net zero can provide. It is a regrettably
unavoidable fact that travelling down this road will eliminate some existing roles within
some industries, as Green Jobs are created in others: by working together, the Government,
employers, providers, and workers can help to ease this transition.
The government has created a Green Jobs Taskforce between the Department for Business,
Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Department for Education. This is a welcome
move. Going forward, however, the Department for Work and Pensions – the department
responsible for job search and back to work schemes for unemployed people – should also
be part of the GJT to ensure unemployed adults can be signposted to green jobs.
Commissioners of employability provision should prioritise and incentivise the facilitation
of Green Jobs into future strategies. They can play a key role in keeping the transition to
net zero on the agenda of employment support providers, through both prioritising the net
zero agenda and incentivising provider’s own efforts in this area.
Employment support providers should seize the opportunity to embed a focus on Green
Jobs into their programmes and services. Providers should work in tandem with the sectors
that they interact with to find ambitious and creative routes to link jobseekers with Green
Jobs, emphasising the clear business case for doing so to employers.
Skills training providers should place a greater focus on providing participants with the skills
needed for Green Jobs. Ensuring that the right skills and training is available to properly equip
individuals for Green Jobs and the transition to a low-carbon economy is of paramount
importance. Ongoing in-work support and progression is also critical, as new roles are
created and new opportunities emerge as we progress closer and closer to 2050.