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Green jobs: creating the workforce to deliver net zero

Green Jobs: creating the workforce to deliver net zero
A new relationship, through a national strategic framework and local delivery partnerships model, can enable councils and combined authorities to bring together skill providers, businesses, industries and other organisations to collectively develop the workforce needed to deliver net zero. Using the principles of Work Local, this policy position sets out how this relationship could operate, bringing together net zero and the skills system to align and collectively develop the green skills and jobs that are needed.

Executive Summary

To deliver net zero and mitigate climate change, there needs to be a step change in the development of the workforce through a strong skills and jobs pipeline that is responsive to change and need. Despite commitments and good intentions from all partners, the current system is not up to the scale of the challenge needed for such a transition, with a clear need for better alignment between net zero investments and the skills and employment system.

Local government has the potential be the key enabler of achieving these ambitions. However, there is lack of national oversight and clarity of roles and responsibilities of national and local government and their partners, with additional challenges caused by short-term funding. The National Audit Office found that there are “weaknesses in central government’s approach to working with local authorities on decarbonisation, stemming from a lack of clarity over local authorities’ overall roles, piecemeal funding, and diffuse accountabilities”.

This opinion was further voiced by Chris Skidmore in the national government’s independent Net Zero Review, which included the following recommendations:

  • Simplify the net zero funding landscape for all local authorities by the next Spending Review.
  • Establish local net zero missions in 2023 for a number of key policy areas to encourage places to go further and faster.
  • Establish core principles for future net zero devolution and ensure that all devolution deals agreed between now and 2030 have a strong net zero element.
  • Provide guidance, reporting mechanisms and additional capacity and capability support to enable local authorities to better monitor and report their net zero progress.

National government has recognised the value of local level actors, and have collaborated with the local government sector and their partners to explore the opportunities and challenges of green jobs and skills through the Ministerial Green Jobs Delivery Group and connected sub groups. This could be further supported through better synergy with the Local Net Zero Forum and other net zero government forums ensuring there is a joined-up approach across national government and local places across both net zero activity and the skills system.

The LGA is putting forward a framework that national government should co-design with the local government sector that would support delivering collective net zero ambitions with a dynamic and skilled workforce. This framework should be underpinned by the following characteristics:

  • A co-designed strategic national timeline of investments to at least 2030 to enable places to plan for the skills and jobs, better aligning net zero ambitions with the local skills system.
  • Insight and data that enables job and skills planning across national, regional and local areas.
  • Delivery of green jobs and skills should be based on a local first principle.
  • Alignment of funding, qualifications, and training to provide a dynamic collective response to the green skills and jobs challenge.

Only by establishing this partnership between national government, local authorities and partners, will we collectively deliver the jobs and skills needed to achieve net zero and support wider levelling up and economic growth and wellbeing aspirations.


Local authorities have great ambitions to achieving net zero, with over 300 councils declaring a climate emergency and they understand the need to act now to achieve net zero and mitigate climate change. These ambitions can only be achieved if there is the skilled workforce and the availability for good jobs, matched with the right support and investments to deliver it.

UK100 estimate that, by 2050, four out of five jobs will be supporting the transition to net zero. The scale of the transition of the workforce needed is significant and there needs to be a skills system that is joined up locally with net zero and decarbonisation investments.

There is a huge opportunity for local communities to create green jobs which can also help tackle inequalities, support people through the cost-of-living crisis, as well as achieving levelling up ambitions. For example, with proper investment, local government could retrofit 1,000 properties a day, which would create 31,000 new skilled jobs in construction and retrofit industries, and there is the potential of 1.18 million new jobs by 2050 in low-carbon and renewable energy industries. There are also significant opportunities in nature restoration, food, agriculture, and STEM industries.

Current challenges

Local and national government and their partners are utilising the power and resources they currently have to develop green jobs and skills. However, they are not in a position to fully achieve this potential and the scale of change required. Through engagement with local government and their partners, some of the main systemic barriers that places current face in the development of green jobs and skills include:

  • Lack of long-term certainty for local businesses: The current system does not enable local businesses, specifically SMEs, to invest in the green skills of the future, as they only have the capacity to focus on the short term. UK100 have found that “SMEs are too focussed on immediate business needs, not confident that there will be sufficient demand in the nascent market, or simply cannot afford to invest in training”.
  • Funding is short-term and fragmented: There is a lack of coherence across different national funding pots, often with short term timeframes and competitive bidding. There is also a lack of oversight and alignment between skills and employment funding, which is fragmented across 49 different funding streams, as well as additional net zero grants and funding which is often output driven. This fragmentation makes aligning funding to build the skills, capacity, and local supply chains to deliver net zero investments challenging. Grants such as the Green Homes Grant and Homes Upgrade Grant has shown that unaligned, short term and output focused grants do not provide the capacity needed to create the workforce required to deliver the programmes successfully
  • Capacity: The availability of trainers and investments in ‘train the trainers’. The short-term nature of funding creates challenges for skills providers, SMEs and micro businesses to invest in capacity building, as well as general local government capacity.
  • Fragmentation of career pathways: There are a range of qualification and training routes available, but these are often difficult to navigate locally, with national and local partners offering different options, with occasional duplication. There is also a great opportunity to develop and promote clear climate change related pathways for young people through strong career guidance, upskill the current workforce and provide opportunities for career change.

Developing a green jobs framework

National government could enable this change and go further and faster by creating and strengthening relationships with local places through a green jobs framework. Based upon the LGA’s Work Local Model principles, the framework would enable national and local government, with partners to collectively develop green jobs and skills, and achieve the step change needed to achieve net zero. This could provide the much needed, longer term strategic planning, coupled with the right support and investments to deliver net zero ambitions for both 2030 and 2050 collectively. 

This approach must enable local authorities to fulfil their place leader roles and strengthen collaboration with businesses, skills providers, and industry, as well as play a part in supporting national investments in net zero.

Principles of a green jobs framework

The below sets out the four principles of the green jobs frame work:

  • A co-designed strategic timeline of investments to at least 2030 to enable places to plan for skills and jobs.
  • The Government should provide data that enables job and skills planning across national, regional, and local areas.
  • Delivery of green jobs and skills should be based on a local first principle.
  • Align funding, qualifications and training to provide a dynamic collective response to the green skills and jobs challenge.

1: A co-designed strategic timeline of investments to at least 2030 to enable places to plan for skills and jobs

A green jobs framework should provide all local areas with a clear roadmap providing strategic direction and certainty to plan the green jobs and skills needed to collectively deliver net zero to at least 2030.

The framework should be co-produced between national and local government, with significant contributions from relevant partners. DENEZ should lead this work, working with the government departments and organisations represented on the Green Jobs Delivery Group, with additional representation of the local government sector and the priority net zero sectors. This includes power and networks; heat and buildings; manufacturing; low carbon hydrogen and carbon capture storage; water, recycling and the circular economy; nature and biodiversity and transport.

The framework should also set out the strategic direction of the key net zero investment, including:

  • Oversight of key net zero national funding programmes and investments that are relevant for every area, such as grants and funding relating to retrofit and energy efficiency. Mapping schemes will enable local areas to have oversight of future workforce needs and funding streams from national and local government.
  • Identifying infrastructure investments that are of national importance and are region specific up to at least 2030. This includes investment in offshore wind technology to decarbonisation of energy intensive industries. This will enable national government to operate a cross departmental approach and local government will be able to forward plan programmes and investment to support the development of infrastructure. This strategic approach would help identify workforce shortages, prevent competition between areas for skilled labour and allow for mitigating actions to be put in place. It will need to be dynamic and responsive to change to reflect technology development and changing infrastructure requirements.
  • Ensure continuation of net zero infrastructure priorities as LEP functions are transferred to local government.
  • Enable the promotion of knowledge transfer which enables projects to be replicated and scaled to either local and regional areas.

Case study

Learning from the Cities Commission for Climate Investment: Bristol City LEAP

The Bristol City Council led partnership aims to deliver an ambitious city-wide programme of decarbonisation, expansion of the energy network, renewable infrastructure and retrofit and energy efficiency. It has mapped out the first five years of almost £500 million investment in infrastructure, expecting the creation of 1000 jobs above the real minimum wage. The size and scale of this partnership provides the confidence for businesses and skill providers to invest in skills, with the council using social value to provide certainty for micro business

2: The Government should provide data that enables job and skills planning across national, regional, and local areas

The ONS published research into the definitions of green jobs and has recently adopted the Green Jobs Delivery Group’s definition of a green job, which is:

Employment in an activity that directly contributes to – or indirectly supports – the achievement of the UK's net zero emissions target and other environmental goals, such as nature restoration and mitigation against climate risks.

Throughout 2023, the ONS will work on a data matrix that provides the following:

  • An industry-based approach, including all jobs in a green industry or sector, with industries classified according to activities undertaken in them.
  • An occupation-based approach, including all jobs that are green regardless of the industry they are in, based on the activities undertaken by workers or the objectives of their work.
  • A firm-based approach, including all jobs in a ‘green ‘firm, potentially classifying such firms based on, for example, their level of emissions.

Providing data and insight as outlined above to the local level enables local government and their partners to identify skill shortages, provide insight to target qualification and training interventions, and monitor how their local economies are moving towards achieving net zero. This helps local places plan investments, ensuring large infrastructure project remain viable, such as energy network investment, or ensuring there is the pipeline of skills needed to retrofit social housing stock. The data produced from the ONS green jobs definition should supplement current local data sources, improving accuracy and responsiveness.

National government should provide green jobs data sets with the following characteristics:

  • Provide data that is regularly updated and responsive to workforce and technological changes, to enable both national and local levels to plan and deliver in a dynamic manner.
  • Data is provided at the lowest possible level that is practical.
  • Ensure that green jobs data complements the business data, and labour market intelligence currently held by LEPs and is transferred to local government as part of the LEP integration process.

Case study

West of England Green Skills Market Analysis

West of England Combined Authority (CA) undertook a Retrofit and Green Skills market analysis which including identifying emerging skills gaps across a range of sectors. Following this analysis, the CA created the Green Recovery Fund to help meet the climate and ecology ambitions set out in the Climate and Ecological Strategy and Action Plan, support programmes which help to create local green skills and jobs and combat climate change, as well as drive forward investments through the Adult Education Budget.

3: Delivery of green jobs and skills should be based on a local first principle

Through the green jobs framework, local places should be enabled to collectively develop the jobs and skills infrastructure needed to deliver national and local net zero schemes, interventions and investments.

This can be achieved through a local green jobs taskforce model which could include the following characteristics:

  • Spatial area being defined by local places that should bring together activity related to local economic and net zero strategies, Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs), Job Centre Plus, Net Zero Hubs and any other relevant place-based activity, to plan and deliver national and local ambitions for net zero around a place. It should work dynamically between the different types of local government and the nuances of local decision making to make sure activity is done at the most appropriate level, while clearly outlining responsibilities and accountabilities.
  • The taskforce model should provide consistency from street level interventions to regional investments ensuring that there is a singular point of reference for national government and external partners to access a place.

Membership of a local taskforce should be determined by local places and operate in a dynamic manner to respond to changing needs and opportunities. The taskforce model is likely to include:

  • local government
  • business and employer representatives
  • skill providers and education establishments
  • representatives from net zero priority industries
  • other sectors including health, housing and the voluntary and community sector.

This model would provide local authorities and combined authorities oversight of local delivery and support the facilitation of the partnership between skills providers, business, different levels of local government and industry, as outlined in the LGA’s Work Local model.

Underpinning each local green jobs taskforce should be delivery plans, supported by the national framework, which should enable the following:

  • Sets out national and local resources.
  • Map the role of local skills and education establishments, businesses as well as national schemes.
  • Collaborate in data collection in mapping labour market activity and potential future demands and training needs.
  • Collectively invest in upskilling and technology.

Case study

West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Green Jobs Taskforce

The Green Jobs Taskforce is a partnership approach to deliver the Mayor’s ambition of 1000 green jobs for young people. By aligning existing funding streams and provision, WYCA has developed a Green Skills Academy. In addition, they have collaborated with business and industry to develop a green curriculum fund, which supports the development of trainers.

4: Align funding, qualifications and training to provide a dynamic collective response to the green skills and jobs challenge

The funding landscape for green jobs and skills needs to have the following characteristics:

  • Allocation of funding to places according to robust evidence to ensure there is consistency and certainty, without valuable capacity being used to undertake bidding competitions.
  • Investment in skills and growth needs to be over a longer-term basis, ideally over five years. Current funding is based on one to three years creates a ‘catch 22’ situation of contractors wanting to invest in skills but only if they are confident that it is growing the market, which short term funding does not provide.
  • Move away from output focused grants, removing restrictions to use funding to build skills, capacity and local supply chains. The current approach means when national programmes, such as the Home Upgrade Grant, are launched, local authorities do not have the scope to deliver the supply chains needed to achieve the grant making it difficult for national government to achieve its ambitions.
  • Enable wider place-based initiatives to be channelled through the taskforce, such as investment in social housing energy efficiency, major nature restoration and energy network investment. This will ensure places can plan the skills pipeline needed to deliver initiatives and tackle workforce challenges. It will provide a long-term direction of travel for a local place, helping places to deliver collective ambitions.

This approach would also enable places to map local qualifications and training available, creating clearer pathways into green jobs:

  • It can bring together businesses, employers, and skills providers to provide a shared plan for qualifications and enable investment decisions to support the FE sector, reducing duplication. This will provide better join-up of businesses and providers in a local area to get holistic view on needs of local economy and at scale to justify new courses, plus developing evidence base for future needs.
  • The taskforce model should enable employers and providers to put funding where it will deliver the greatest impact, such as short-term measures, like skills boot camps quickly and increase the flexibility to utilise the apprenticeship levy more in the supply chain.
  • Enable local places to respond dynamically to changing technology and skills requirements, using creative approaches to plug skills gaps as qualifications catch up with new technological and industry developments.
  • There is the opportunity for sharing or co-investing in equipment for the FE sector, reducing duplication and financial burdens for individual partners
  • Develop creative approaches to incentivise train the trainer schemes, ensuring capacity is being built in the FE sector.

Case study

Essex County Council has partnered with the Retrofit Academy to develop and deliver training to relevant Publicly Available Specification standards, using national and local funding to incentivise participation in retrofit skills and activity. They have seen the number of retrofit coordinators in Essex increase from 1 to over 50, training almost 300 people in professional retrofit skills from level 2 to 5 in the past 18 months. Through the Community Renewal Fund, they have also secured a new electric vehicles centre in Harlow with the intention for the college to upskill 50 automative technicians.

East Sussex area has six district councils collaborating to retrofitting 40,000 household, creating a long-term supply side for SMEs and micro businesses, and are utilising Green Training Hubs.

Making the framework a reality

To make the framework a reality, DESNZ should lead a cross departmental co-production process, in partnership with the local government sector, to develop a national green jobs framework and local green jobs delivery plans. This should include collaboration on a co-production process, working with organisations on the Green Jobs Delivery and other net zero forums and the priority net zero sectors.

This should include co-producing the following:

  • Identifying and mapping all national funding streams and programmes related to achieve net zero, related skills and green growth.
  • Identifying all known key future infrastructure investments that have national or regional significance for achieving net zero or mitigating climate change.
  • A matrix of regularly updated data sets to inform programmes and policies, which enable local areas to identify and mitigate skills shortages, measure progress towards net zero and contribute to the monitoring and evaluation of programmes and schemes.

Local government and their partners will need to play their role by developing local green jobs delivery plans which will include:

  • Developing a local green jobs taskforce based on new or current partnerships, mapping local responsibilities and accountabilities.
  • Collating and mapping net zero, skills and green growth strategies and aspirations.
  • Mapping local funding streams, resources qualifications and training opportunities.

National government can enable local government by providing capacity for the sector to develop local green jobs delivery plans, with responsive technical guidance and advice.