The ‘Green Industrial Revolution’: Why apprenticeships will prove vital to its success


The economic damage caused by coronavirus has been felt across the global economy, which in turn has led many governments to reassess their economic objectives. A noteworthy result of this is the increasing emphasis on creating new jobs through tackling climate change, as demonstrated in the UK by the government’s Ten Point Plan for a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ (1). The government states that their aim through this development is to produce up to 250,000 new jobs in the UK, whilst ensuring that the effects of climate change are properly addressed (1). Whilst the dual benefits of creating jobs and addressing climate change is unlikely to prove controversial with many, an important question mark still remains as to how this new jobs revolution will be achieved.


With many new jobs being proposed in industries that will clearly have to change many of their existing working practices, such proposed changes will evidently require high-quality training to ensure that workers in these new jobs have the expertise they need to drive this growth forward. The industry changes being proposed are reflected in the Green Industrial Revolution’s proposed Ten Point Plan, which focuses on many new and existing industries and how they need to evolve for the future (1). Improvements to the nuclear and car manufacturing industries are two principal examples contained within the plan, as they are existing industries that are identified as requiring urgent modernisation through the construction of environmentally friendly reactors and electric vehicle manufacturing plants (1). The government proposes to introduce a series of funding grants to every industry contained in its Ten Point Plan (1). Yet no matter how much funding is targeted into changing these industries in the long term, such efforts will arguably prove futile if they lack the highly skilled workers needed to fill the enormous number of new vacancies proposed.


If multi-billion pound government backed schemes are to be channelled into these new industries, then apprenticeships should be considered a priority area. Apprenticeships provide an excellent way of ensuring that workers in any vocation are able to earn a real wage or salary whilst learning in the workplace. New industries in areas such as carbon capture or wind technology would arguably benefit most from apprenticeships. Apprentices in these vocations would be able to apply their newfound skills through practical workplace learning, particularly as the knowledge and skills required will be new ones that may not have been taught at school or university. The government’s stated aim of utilising the UK’s existing industrial heartlands in Scotland, Wales and the north of England could create further scope for collaboration between these industries and local universities with the formulation of degree apprenticeships (1). These could be developed in areas such as offshore wind technologies. Industries such as construction may also benefit from new apprenticeships in energy and heating efficiency, as homes and public buildings are also identified in the Ten Point Plan as an area earmarked for future changes in the form of better insulation (1).


It’s clear that the government regards apprenticeships as an important part of the UK’s education system. In recent years the funding rules for apprenticeships have been made more flexible in providing more generous funding incentives for employers in hiring an apprentice, which is expected to assist in allowing for more apprenticeship starts. The National Skills Fund, which is expected to attract up to £2.5 billion in government funding, is also noteworthy for its aim of providing free qualifications in a variety of sectors to adults as part of a Lifetime Skills Guarantee (2). Whilst all of these initiatives have the potential to enable more adults to access education and training, there is still the possibility that more could be done in providing training opportunities in areas that are specific to the government’s Ten Point Plan. For example, the UK Government is launching twelve new Institutes of Technology (IoTs), designed to bridge the technical skills gap between schools and universities (3).


Furthermore, the creation of more relevant and practical apprenticeship standards may further assist in getting more people into these new fields of work.


This is to ensure that only the most pertinent skills and knowledge are taught to apprentices in the workplace. New apprenticeship standards in areas such as green finance and carbon capture technologies are two examples of how apprenticeships could be created in these sectors to ensure that apprentices have developed the specific skills demanded by the Green Revolution’s new jobs.


The Local Government Association predicts that up to 1.8 million people in England will be working in low carbon jobs by 2050, which suggests that the need for training in these areas will far outweigh the 250,000 green jobs that the government hopes to create in the short term (4). If that is to be the case, the role of universities, training providers and end-point assessment organisations (such as ORCA EPA) will all be important in ensuring that new opportunities can be created as part of the Green Industrial Revolution. Whilst the government has been clear on the levels of funding that it plans to allocate to various sectors as part of its Ten Point Plan, the same level of detail cannot be said for how it plans to train the required number of workers for the 250,000 new jobs it aims to create as a part of its strategy. Apprenticeships will arguably need to play a crucial role in fulfilling the training requirements that will result from this green revolution.


References


1. Press Release – ‘PM Outlines His Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution for 250,000 jobs’ [Online]. Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-outlines-his-ten-point-plan-for-a-green-industrial-revolution-for-250000-jobs


2. Guidance – National Skills Fund [Online]. Available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-skills-fund


3. Guidance – Institutes of technology [Online]. Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/institutes-of-technology—2


4. ‘Local green jobs – accelerating a sustainable economic recovery’ [Online]. Available at https://www.local.gov.uk/local-green-jobs-accelerating-sustainable-economic-recovery