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Net zero jobs

In the UK, industrial sectors (energy-intensive and less energy-intensive industries) provide 2.6 million direct jobs. Europe is home to over 1,500 industrial clusters, representing 54 million jobs or almost 25% of total EU employment. Industrial companies are estimated to provide about one-quarter of global employment, as they also support many jobs indirectly throughout the supply chain, from specialised legal firms[1] to clothing and PPE manufacturers[2].

A shift to a resilient, net zero economy will generate up to 37 million additional jobs worldwide by 2030[3]. The UK Government is investing £4 billion to support two million green jobs in the UK by 2030. As a growing area, there were already over 410,000 jobs, specifically in low-carbon businesses and their supply chains in the UK in 2021.

It is important to highlight that decarbonisation will play out differently in each sector, likely shaped when individual technologies reach commercial maturity. The work to decarbonise energy and industry, and then continuing to work in decarbonised industrial sectors, could encompass a wide variety of jobs, for example:


Skills required for the net zero transition


Skills required for the net zero transition


Skills required for the net zero transition


Given the variety of job opportunities, the industrial sector has been described as an ‘employees’ market’ where industries will compete for these skill sets.

Specifically in the UK, skills and competencies such as construction and project infrastructure skills will be in high demand, with major infrastructure projects such as CCUS and hydrogen plants, High Speed Two (HS2) and Hinkley Point C nuclear power station competing for the same people.

Many businesses, therefore, are predicting shortfalls in the availability of suitably qualified and experienced personnel to fill critical roles[4] – with some businesses are already experiencing this. As such, these sectors need to access the best people from the largest possible pool of candidates.

For that, these sectors will need to improve their diversity, particularly at senior levels. According to a Deloitte report in 2021, fewer than one in three manufacturing professionals in the US were women[5]. The latest annual board statistics published by POWERful Women (PfW) show that in 2021 only 14% of executive director roles in the UK energy sector were held by women. And in 2019, women were reported to only make up an average of 23% of total employees across 135 international energy companies[6].

Zero carbon competencies

Meet Jasmin – she’s a GCSE student navigating the first steps towards her working life. She is exploring the current and future job market for white collar jobs in industry and how she can develop useful skills.
  • Why should I consider working in industry?

Research by National Grid suggests that more than three-quarters of UK adults (78%) think it’s important to play a part in the UK’s journey to reaching net zero emissions[7]. And there are already strong incentives to move into ‘green jobs’ as they carry an average wage premium of 8 per cent over ‘non-green’ jobs (in part because they are currently often higher-qualified, professional jobs)[8][9].

  • What overarching competencies will I need?

Competencies are a key enabler of the net zero transition and can differentiate you in the job market now and in the future. These broad ways of working which will be needed between now and 2050 include:

  • Active listening
  • Adaptability
  • Change and risk management
  • Creative thinking
  • Critical thinking
  • Empathetic leadership
  • Innovation (including ability to fail and learn)
  • Problem solving
  • Systems thinking
  • Teamwork and collaboration

These are many of the same skills and competencies which are needed already in existing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs, as well as being required in the future.

Having these technical and transferable skills creates opportunities for you to enter the workforce close to your hometown or to work around the world, choose between a wide variety of jobs and organisations, and constantly be in demand.

  • What technical skills and competencies might different jobs require?

The development of offshore wind, hydrogen, and CCUS, as well as ongoing oil and gas activities, are likely to be key sectors for which skills gaps exist[10]. More widely, certain skills could be in demand:

  • Climate skills (e.g. climate finance, geographic information system [GIS] mapping)
  • Construction and project infrastructure skills
  • Data and evidence analysis
  • Digital skills, including digital security
  • Engineering skills (electrical, mechanical, chemical, civil)
  • Fundamental energy knowledge (e.g. energy systems, energy efficiency, energy finance)
  • Public policy development (at local and national level)

Importantly, the required skills will change as technologies mature or are invented and depend on the area.

  • Where can I go to get qualified?

There are many different training opportunities and routes:

  • Further education: Level 3 qualifications, such as Construction and the Built Environment or T Levels, such as Science or Design, Surveying and Planning for Construction;
  • Further education: A Levels, such as Mathematics or Physics;
  • Non-degree/technical apprenticeships;
  • Degree apprenticeships (e.g. software engineering, R&D engineering);
  • Mature apprenticeships;
  • University – for more information on universities, please follow the link to the Energy Institute’s learning affiliates page.

Be ambitious about what you want to do!

The Energy Institute’s Careers page will be able to offer further help and information.

Existing roles

Long asset life and technology maturation timeframes mean that existing industrial jobs will continue to be required. And many of the technical skills, such as precision working, equipment management and problem-solving, will always be important across many sectors. Most skills are transitionary - using the same skills in a different context or process - in the net zero economy.

There are also many opportunities for the current industrial workforce to develop new skills as processes and practices change or to use skills in a new or evolving context. Undertaking training to reskill certain areas allows for manoeuvrability between different industries and helps to future-proof careers by creating long-term job security.

In the UK, skills, or lack of them, is one of the current big barriers to achieving net zero. Yet, the UK specifically has advantages of engineering excellence, oil and gas history, and North Sea storage potential. Over 90% of the UK’s oil and gas workforce have medium to high skills transferability and are well positioned to work in other energy sectors[11]. For example, there is medium skills transferability from oil and gas to CCUS and blue hydrogen.

However, that still leaves many people who are not well positioned and whose skills are not readily transferable.

Meet Bill - he’s worked in a chemical plant in Scotland for over 20 years. His employer is starting to change the way they do business. Bill is assessing what this this means for him: how quickly might changes happen, and what might this mean for his job? Are there likely to be opportunities to re-train?
  • What does upskilling or retraining mean for me?

The shifts in roles within decarbonisation of existing industries are likely to be incremental. Many existing skillsets only need small ‘tweaks’ to apply them to new technologies; the actual job role will not change. For example, a technician may need a hydrogen safety course to learn about the safety aspects of fuel switching between natural gas and hydrogen but does not necessarily need an overhaul of their job.

As companies’ plans become clearer so too will any need for additional skills and training. This may include training workers to operate new technologies within industrial plants, or to work in new areas e.g. operating CO2 transport and storage networks or on expanded material re-use and recycling networks.

Relevant to this is also ongoing efforts, within various organisations and governments around the world, to develop skills passports[12]. These would provide a trusted, portable credential of your skills and qualifications. This would ensure that any skills gained through upskilling or retraining would be transferable and not dependent on the awarding body, location of accreditation or industrial sector they have been achieved in.

  • Where could I go to undertake these kinds of training?

In England, the National Skills Fund may offer opportunities to upskill and access training - groups such as the Aldersgate Group believe these adult-learning provisions should be extended. The Energy Institute also runs seminars and courses. There are also opportunities to take courses through Trade Union Learning Funds in Scotland and Wales or enrol at Further Education colleges.

Unfortunately, it is common for people to have to fund training themselves and take time off to complete their studies. In the Energy Institute Energy Barometer 2021, almost half (49%) of respondents had concerns about cost, time and availability of courses standing in the way of their skills development. This is a significant barrier, particularly without certainty of demand. Talk to your manager, trade union representative and local MP about your needs.

There has been a lot of work undertaken around the just transition to the net zero economy and what it could mean for people. This includes the establishment of a Just Transition Commission.

  • How can I share my experience with others?

The transition provides a great opportunity for the exchange of ideas, experience, and expertise:

  • Teaching apprentices – both those new to the workforce as well as helping to upskill and retrain the existing workforce. It will also be important to develop apprenticeship standards and qualifications related to decarbonisation.
  • Delivering or taking part in courses in local colleges and universities – blue collar workers have the technical knowledge and lived experience which few others can replicate and there is a lack of trained instructors at further education colleges.
  • Becoming a mentor - this could be within an organisation or externally, such as through a professional body like the Energy Institute.