The region of West Yorkshire stands on the cusp of opportunity as our economy regroups post-covid. Our region was once the powerhouse for the country, fuelling the growth of innovation and wealth across the entire UK. Today the climate crisis poses stark challenges to our region, but also presents radical opportunities for modernisation and reindustrialisation in a way that delivers on our national obligations to tackle climate change, and our demand for investment and growth.
This depends on having a working population that has been equipped with the skills, training and education needed to take hold of the opportunities of the green industrial revolution. From state-of-the-art wind turbines to low-carbon hydrogen, the opportunities are boundless. What’s lacking is the investment in green skills, training, and education to sustain it. Like a shiny new car without an ignition switch, without the right skills framework we will find ourselves unable to start the roaring engine of the green economy.
Training and investing for a green growth future
Initiatives to incorporate sustainability into our educational framework and employment landscape have so far have been piecemeal and largely ineffective. For example, the once-lauded ‘Kickstart’ programme has largely failed to deliver for our young people and in proliferating green skills throughout the country. Only 1 percent of Kickstart placements were in green sectors.
Without the bedrock of green skills, education and training, we will find ourselves woefully ill-equipped for the challenges and opportunities of the future. The government should ensure that future labour market interventions, from their inception, are aligned with its net zero and environmental goals. This will equip us for a future of green growth, investment, and industry.
Achieving these aims is contingent on a green-skilled workforce. Although the green jobs taskforce provides a good foundation, what is needed now is a detailed plan for delivery. The opportunities of a green economy are underpinned by ensuring we have the right skills, training, and education to equip the workforce for the jobs of the future.
This requires commitment from a government that priorities its climate obligations and has ambition for the UK to lead the world in new industry. However, from the axing of the green homes grant, which provided training in installing low carbon heat insulation, to just three mentions of training in the ‘Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’, there are concerns that not enough is being done to invest in the skills of the future.
Green skills pipeline
The green skills pipeline will determine both the number and type of green jobs. The need is there, and the opportunity is there. We must ensure the supply of skilled and trained workers by providing high-quality technical and practical education in several subject areas, for each age group, and in every part of the country.
West Yorkshire and the Leeds City Region stand primed in terms of innovation, educational excellence, talent, and skill. That’s why in Huddersfield, we have brought together businesses, educational providers, and residents to build a blueprint here that works, which draws on best practice regionally and which could be rolled out nationwide.
The Sustainable Huddersfield project
As an organisation, the Sustainable Huddersfield project has been able to partner with business and manufacturing organisations, environmental groups such as the Kirklees Climate Commission, academics, and members of the public. By bringing together key stakeholders from different sectors in one organisation, we have been able to make significant progress in developing an integrated sustainability agenda in Huddersfield, that ensures we have both green skills and the jobs to utilise them.
That’s why on Thursday 21 April, I’m convening academics, businesses, pressure groups, local politicians, and members of the public to discuss the critical policy area of green skills, training, and education. We’re going to discuss solutions to the deficit of green skills and ensure that our region is at the forefront of the green transition, with all the opportunities it brings. Let us ensure we have the skills needed to start the engine of the green industrial revolution. If we fail to do so, we will find ourselves missing out on the opportunities it is bound to bring.
We would be delighted if you chose to join us. You can sign up here.