A lack of green STEM jobs could lead to a net zero skill shortage

engineering STEM students at a job learning net zero skills
© Thanakorn Suppamethasawat

The UK could experience a net zero skills shortage due to the lack of understanding and education of skills required in green STEM jobs

A new report by EngineeringUK suggests the UK could be “sleep-walking towards a net zero skills shortage”, after analysing a net zero workforce report from across the engineering sector, looking at the STEM jobs and engineering skills needed to decarbonise all sectors of the UK economy.

This report states that there is neither a consistent understanding of the future demand for engineering and technical skills needed at a national level to meet net-zero targets by 2050, nor the implications for those coming through STEM secondary and tertiary education.

Overall, the researchers recommend that should government deliver on its carbon reduction targets, it needs to get better at understanding the number of future green jobs and skills of people working in the sectors crucial to achieving the UK’s net zero commitments.

STEM backgrounds are vital for helping the UK transition to greener alternatives

In order to have a workforce which is prepared to respond to the climate crisis, there need to be people with the right engineering skills and other STEM backgrounds.

The report emphasises how there is no ‘back-casting’ being undertaken to understand whether we have the necessary numbers of young people acquiring STEM qualifications at secondary and tertiary education levels to tackle these challenges.

An example of this lack of preparation can be seen with the singular research paper included in this analysis mentioning STEM A Levels – this highlights the lack of educational courses being provided to push people into greener jobs and the net zero skill sector – as well as the few amounts of teachers available to train students in this sector also.

Mike Hardisty, Head of Environmental Sustainability at EngineeringUK, said: “It’s clear that we could be sleep-walking towards a net zero engineering skills shortage without knowing how big the skills and educational gaps are and where they are.

“We need to change that to ensure that the right policies are in place to address this.” The Unit for Future Skills would appear to be a good starting point to act as a hub to guide the government on workforce issues like producing a regular national labour forecast.

“We need more young people to take STEM subjects at school and in further education, but we are lacking the teachers and the infrastructure to make this happen.”

“To address the climate crisis, there are issues within our education system that need to be tackled. For example, we need more young people to take STEM subjects at school and in further education, but we are lacking the teachers and the infrastructure to make this happen.

“More needs to be done to encourage and enable young people across the UK to take up STEM-based qualifications with a view to tackling the climate crisis – if we don’t have enough young people studying chemistry and physics now, for example, it could lead to a shortage of electrical and chemical engineers, which means we will not have the necessary skills in the future workforce.”


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