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Learning 'green skills' more important than creating 'green jobs', says report

Kickstarting the region's economy doesn't rely on creating new jobs in green industries but investing in green skills, says a new report from Anglia Ruskin University.
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All organisations that took part in the ARU study said they were committed to going greener, but none were direct 'green industries'

The report says that businesses in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire do not see "green jobs" as the future but believe all jobs across all sectors will become greener and require sustainable skills.

Conducted by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and commissioned by Cambridgeshire Council's Covid-19 recovery group, the report interviewed businesses to see how they thought the local economy and society would change after the pandemic.

Many businesses said they believed all sectors would need to become more environmentally friendly, requiring green skills and green mindsets to move forwards.

Some spoke of looking to implement greener supply chains by introducing eco-friendly packaging and buying locally to reduce their carbon footprints, moving to lower-emission processes, and choosing low carbon/green materials when making infrastructure investment decisions.

The Green Jobs Taskforce recently launched by the government laid out plans to create two million green jobs by 2030, with a focus on the environmental goods and services sector.

Report co-author Dr Alison Grieg, of ARU’s Global Sustainability Institute, said: "All participants, regardless of their sector, recognised the importance of a transition to a cleaner, fairer economy and society in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. 

"None of the organisations we spoke to directly provide goods or services to the environmental sector, so are not in a ‘green industry’, but they are all committed to ensuring their organisations become greener. 

"We found that putting too much focus on creating new green jobs is likely to under-estimate other sectors’ contributions and skills requirements. Too much emphasis on new green jobs may lead to certain sectors feeling excluded or disenfranchised from this important transition. 

"These findings are also really important for education and training providers, as they demonstrate a need to ‘green’ all curricula, rather than just add new ones."

Alongside the topic of sustainability, many businesses admitted to seeking holistic skills - how candidates think and act - over knowledge or specialist training. This was not possible in every field, such as nursing or engineering, but where possible businesses wanted the right personality for the job.

Employers also said they expected to experience a skills shortage within the next five years, but thought the greater connectivity brought about by the growth in remote working would reduce the dependency on geography. It is believed this may ease the issues with recruiting to high-cost locations such as Cambridge.

The analysis done in the report showed that Covid-19 had disrupted normal practice, likely accelerating changes that would have otherwise happened over a longer period.

Firms and organisations which took part in the report included Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, G's, Baker Perkins Ltd, Redgate Software, Turners (Soham) Ltd, Chiltern Cold Storage Group Ltd, Hill, Abcam and Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group.

The findings of the report are being used to help shape the development of courses at the new Peterborough university, opening in September 2022, with green skills being embedded across the curriculum.

Professor Ross Renton, principal of ARU Peterborough, said: "Green skills will have a central role in ARU Peterborough’s course portfolio.

"We are already having discussions with over 100 local businesses and are keen to work with more to ensure that green skills become embedded across all sectors of our economy."