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Heighten training in technical ‘green skills’, manufacturers urge

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Make UK has published a new report, 'Unlocking the skills needed for a digital and green future', which finds that a third of manufacturing firms are struggling with a skills gap, particularly regarding technical skills relevant for the greening of the economy.

Make UK conducted a survey of almost 200 UK manufacturers. They found that most are training staff in the latest technologies in order to prepare them for the decarbonisation of the economy.

The report confirmed that the overwhelming majority (98 per cent) of manufacturers are aware of the government’s net-zero target and 92 per cent said this is achievable for their business by 2050 with the appropriate support in place.

However, a third of companies reported a skills gap. Almost half of respondents said training for “green skills” should be at a high level (level 4 and 5, i.e. higher apprenticeship, higher national certificate, foundation degree or higher national diploma) and 30 per cent said those skills should be at the highest level (level 6 and above, i.e. degree level).

Innovation is at the top of the list of skills companies feel are necessary to achieve their green targets, with 72 per cent saying a boost to innovation skills is critical to success. Other top skills include resource efficiency (such as carbon accounting) and “low-carbon economy” (e.g. carbon emission minimisation, or nuclear and renewable energy generation).

According to Onward, there is a technical skills gap in the UK among both high-level STEM skills and low and medium-level technical qualifications. It estimates the average skill level of a “net-zero job” is 26 per cent higher than the current occupations across UK industry.

The quality of training must be raised, the report said. Specifically, government should prioritise educational resources to ensure there is increased provision of training at higher skill levels of degree standard or above, through implementation of a green skills tax credit to encourage manufacturers to train their employees. It also recommended a 'Help to Grow Green' programme for managers and leaders to train them in the latest sustainable manufacturing processes and procedures.

It said acquisition of in-depth skills would enable companies to accelerate the deployment of clean technologies, while increasing productivity and resource efficiency.

“Britain’s manufacturers have long shown that they are at the forefront of innovation globally and they have already gone a long way to improve their processes and production in the quest to reach net zero,” said Stephen Phipson, CEO of Make UK. “In order that they continue at speed, business needs government to play its part in driving the process forward.

“Government needs to prioritise educational resources to make sure there is an increased provision of training at the higher skill levels of degree. This will help to make sure industry has the skills it needs to take advantage of the opportunities in the digital and green economy. They should look to implement a green skills tax credit to encourage manufacturers to train their employees in the latest green skills.”

Make UK, with Sage, published a set of principles for manufacturers as they transition to low-carbon business: to commit to understanding and equipping businesses with the green skills needed to complete the transition to a digital and green future; to identify areas of business in which green skills are needed; to engage and collaborate with the education system and training market to meet the green skills required, and to recognise that a green future goes hand-in-hand with a digital future.

Paul Struthers of Sage added: “Businesses’ ability to harness the right skills will be vital, as well as measures to incentivise businesses to invest in people and carbon reductions. This is especially important given that SMEs are already facing major challenges in attracting the talent they need. The recommendations in this report are essential steps to take if this sector is to progress its green agenda at pace.”

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