A 2022 report by LinkedIn began with the CEO, Ryan Roslansky, stating that there is a "massive shift underway in the global economy". He was not only talking about the "great reshuffle" where business models and ways of working are being totally upended, but also about the need to green the economy and for education to support the development of the green skills that are needed to do this.
Green skills, this report tells us, are the skills needed to make economic activity environmentally sustainable. The examples it gives of the most prominent green skills are in things like renewables and environmental systems like pollution prevention. This is what so many people think of when someone says "green skills", and feel that it only applies to jobs like engineers tinkering with wind turbines.
Not so, and here's where we differ somewhat from the view of Mr Roslansky: all jobs are, in fact, green jobs.
A green job is actually, we would argue, is just a job. From cleaner to carpenter, designer to DJ, we all need skills related to sustainability. The LinkedIn report does go some way towards making this point, by listing sectors by "green intensity". While that sounds like a St Patrick's Day cocktail, it actually means the extent to which "green skills" are required to perform that role.
In their sector overview, LinkedIn report that the jobs with the highest Green intensity are in corporate services, manufacturing, mining and design. At the bottom of the scale, the jobs with the least green intensity are to be found in the arts, legal, entertainment and wellness. This ties in with the thinking of the Institute For Apprentices (IFA) in the UK, which has designed a very useful framework which could be applied to any institution-employer partnership, with the objective of helping them to improve sustainability, and to embed this in the learning process to support sustainability objectives.
The IFA categorizes these as light green/mid-green/dark green roles. Light green roles are those which do not really change in nature when sustainability requirements are introduced. An example of this would be a hair stylist, who would essentially be carrying out the same tasks, but might consider things like refillable shampoos and energy efficiency measures.
Mid green roles are those which remain much the same but might require the embedding of new knowledge, skills or behaviors to enable the learner to use new approaches. An example of this would be a heating engineer, who would be expected to learn how to install more energy efficient technologies such as heat pumps in the future, as opposed to traditional gas boilers.
Dark green roles are the more traditional “green jobs” where sustainability is already at the core of the job. Renewable energy technicians are an example of this.
There is a green skill that is not often talked about: the ability to support sustainability strategy. Let's take an example. A university has decided it needs to cut emissions by 70% before 2040, and has circulated the glossy (digital, we hope!) strategy papers and filtered down KPIs and action points to departmental heads. Great.
The thing is that the next steps depend on buy-in. The admissions team are of course aware of climate change, but have they been properly supported to identify where their emissions are really coming from? When they are asked to reduce air travel, cut down on paper, monitor energy efficiency and reduce waste, are they to only do what is asked of them?
Have they been properly engaged in exploring the connection between their activity and the global issues it contributes to? Do they feel empowered to actually make a difference, or is this tokenism? Does their understanding of emissions sources help them actually come up with new ideas that only they will see through their unique perspective?
The "green job" might be said to be the departmental head or sustainability officer, but it really depends on every single person to make it work. When nobody is looking, only the integrity that comes from true awareness will ensure that each person does the right thing and supports the overall strategy. That buy-in comes from training, reflection, discussion, engagement and empowerment. Every job is a green job in a sustainable future.
LinkedIn finds that "Younger green talent are in pole position" to take advantage of huge job opportunities in a labour market that increasingly prizes sustainability skills. There is a growth rate in demand for green skills of about 40% between 2015 and 2021, and as countries race to meet net-zero targets, this will climb far more steeply. Regardless of how much a company is actually doing about meeting sustainability targets, you can bet they are already thinking about doing more. In the job interview, the candidate who shows she understands the issues at play, and how to support the solutions within an organization, will surely be two steps ahead of the rest.
Much work is underway across primary, secondary, tertiary and professional education and training to prepare learners for “a Green Industrial Revolution” as the UK Government wrote in its 2020 strategy paper. The current situation, however, shows that progress is not uniform.
A large study by the Education and Training Foundation in 2021 found that in the Further Education system in the UK, while 94% of sector professionals surveyed agreed that all learners should receive education about sustainability, and 85% felt that the FE and Training sector had a significant role to play in supporting the Sustainable Development Goals, the sector was not yet meeting that responsibility. The report also found that:
We have already made our views known that institutions need to step up to the challenge of embedding sustainability in all learning pathways, but it is important to underline that this is a universal approach. Generation Alpha are coming, and even at 9 years old, 67% of the younger Alphas want to make sustainability central to their career mission. This is the generation who, more than any other, will be faced with the reality of climate change, so institutions who do not have this issue front and centre in their messaging and learning design are not meeting their needs, or the needs of a planet in ecological decay.
We must value and understand this new generation approaching us, learn to connect with them, and to ensure that our learning offer is fit for the purpose of a new generation and a new and challenging world. Every single learning pathway must be through the lens of sustainability, and thus the presence and value of this knowledge and skill set is made visible in every career pathway.
For our part, we can support your institution in repositioning your branding and messaging to reach and connect with the next generation, and to make sure that offer is heard and felt by a generation that needs to know you can help them to make a difference. Connect with us, and let's get moving.