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Breaking the green ceiling: HR leaders’ role in closing the green skills gap

With world leaders having come together to discuss a greener future at COP28, it’s a timely reminder for us to confront a difficult truth: ambitious net zero goals can only be met if people have the right skills to make this a reality.  

We have a long way to go, with new insights from LinkedIn highlighting that we are facing a significant shortage of green talent that will help us on the path to a more sustainable future

LinkedIn data shows that green job postings grew nearly twice as fast as the share of green talent between 2022 and 2023, and just one in eight workers in the UK currently have green skills.

We define green skills as those that contribute to reducing pollution or conserving resources, such as climate action planning and sustainable procurement.

Green job adverts triple in 2022

This mismatch in demand versus talent with green skills is further widened by gender disparity.

Women remain underrepresented in the green economy, with our data showing they make up just a third (34%) of workers across green industries, compared with 44% in other industries.

This gap widens in leadership roles, where women make up just a fifth of VP roles (20%) and C-suite roles (21%) in renewable energy industries, globally. 

To help bridge the widening green skills gap, HR and L&D leaders will play a pivotal role in cultivating green skills within their organisation, and ensuring this is a fair and equitable transition for both men and women. 

Employers as educators 

The challenge is that while companies are hiring for green roles, in many cases these are new roles, and there simply aren’t enough people with the skills needed to do the jobs.

With the demand for green talent outpacing the growth of green skills, we will increasingly see employers focus not just on hiring, but on how they can train and develop professionals with the skills needed for these emerging and in-demand roles.

Net zero workforce to create 300 million jobs

This means that in the transition to green, employers will increasingly act as educators – 'training to hire' individuals into green jobs through onboarding programmes and academies, as well as 'training to promote' employees through upskilling initiatives that can help them transition into green roles. 

Leading energy and sustainable solutions provider E.ON UK is an example of an employer helping its people to gain green skills across all stages of their careers - whether entry-level, middle management, or through its senior leadership programme. 

E.ON UK recognises that with almost half (46%) of young people aged 16-24 saying they will forgo traditional higher education because they want to go straight into a green job, it’s important to offer apprenticeships and learning academies that facilitate this education. 

In fact, E.ON UK currently has around 200 apprentices working on over 50 different schemes and offers a range of degree apprenticeships such as engineering, project management and supply chain leadership and role-specific apprenticeships in customer service, accountancy, HR, legal and cyber security among others.

Implementing tailored learning and development programmes 

There is no overnight solution to any systemic issue, but there are clear actions and solutions to accelerate the global green labour market transition

Another way for businesses and HR teams can support on this journey is by taking the time to develop an in-depth understanding of the skills the business needs to achieve its climate goals.

In doing so, businesses can effectively implement tailored and targeted reskilling programmes, as well as on-the-job training for employees. This will be particularly important in tackling the gender disparity in green roles.

Hot topic: Transition to a green economy

Although women have been entering into the green talent pool at a higher rate than men over the last two years, our data shows that the pace of change is still too slow and that the green gender gap is actually widening.

This is a huge issue as achieving net zero targets will require a whole-economy effort. 

To tackle the shortage effectively and level the playing field for women in particular, businesses will need to look at how they upskill employees, and how they can create inclusive development networks that provide everyone with an opportunity to learn, grow and develop themselves. 

We work with E.ON UK, who has made huge steps in democratising access to L&D opportunities via online learning.

In the last year alone, E.ON’s UK employees have watched more than 56,000 online learning videos on LinkedIn Learning – and two of the top five most completed courses are focused on green skills, which is a top priority for the organisation.

While there are lots of barriers to entry to green jobs, HR teams can help to reduce these barriers, and bridge green skills gaps, by having an in-depth understanding of the skills their organisations will need to achieve their climate goals, enabling them to effectively implement tailored and targeted L&D programmes.

Becky Schnauffer is head of Global Clients at LinkedIn Talent Solutions