UK Green Jobs Taskforce and North Sea Transition Deal

Last updated: 3 August 2023

As part of the UK government’s climate strategy and green recovery efforts from Covid-19, the government in 2020 set up the Green Jobs Task force, comprised of 17 experts from industry, academia, labour unions, and the education and skills sector. The group undertook a study over the period from November 2020 to July 2021. The task force is part of the government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, launched by the Prime Minister in November 2020. The plan directs GBP 12 billion in government funding, covering the energy, transport and industry sectors, to support a green recovery and support job creation. Specifically, the plan is expected to support the creation of up to 250 000 green jobs – including engineers, fitters, construction workers among many others – by 2030. Sectors for new investment include offshore wind, hydrogen, advanced nuclear, zero emissions vehicles, green buildings and CCUS.

The strategy builds off the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, announced by the government in September 2020, which aims to better align the post-16 education system with company needs in order to set up workers to meet the skills gaps of today and the future, in sectors such as construction, digital, clean energy and manufacturing. In early 2021, the programme launched almost 400 qualifications that are fully-funded for any adult who has not already achieved a Level 3 qualification.

The 15 final recommendations of the Green Jobs Task Force – divided along three themes of the ‘green jobs lifecycle’ – are meant to support the government’s ambition for two million green jobs in the United Kingdom by 2030 and help establish the workforce pathway to net zero emissions by 2050. It notes research commissioned by the Climate Change Commission that found that overall the United Kingdom’s transition to net zero emissions will increase GDP by around 2- 3%, and create about 300 000 additional jobs by 2050. The green jobs lifecycle is defined as employment in an activity that either directly or indirectly contributes to the United Kingdom’s net zero emissions target and mitigates climate risks, and therefore covers a broad range of economic sectors. It builds upon reforms to the skills system established under the government’s Skills for Jobs White Paper that introduced new T Levels technical qualifications, flexible apprenticeships, Skills Bootcamps and occupational traineeships.

The task force’s report notes that one in five jobs in the United Kingdom (6.3 million workers) will require skills that may see increased demand (10% of UK jobs) or reduced demand (approximately 10%) as a result of the net zero transition. The report also includes estimates of job creation potential in various clean energy sectors (such as offshore wind and buildings retrofits) as well as jobs and skills shifts in sectors experiencing significant transformation (such as automotive).

For example, on a sectoral basis, the offshore wind sector is poised for major growth. Based on industry estimates, the sector could employ 40 000 directly and an additional 30 000 through the supply chain, relative to around 26 000 today. These jobs will be concentrated in construction, installation, operations and maintenance, requiring technicians and engineers, in particular. Nonetheless, a broad set of skills is needed for ongoing sectoral development, including asset management, project management, engineering and technical skills, science, advanced first aid and rescue, and offshore-specific skills. A number of these skills are particularly well-suited for current oil and gas sector workers. Similarly, some of the skills gaps in CCUS and hydrogen could be met with the current oil and gas workforce, such as pipe fitters and designers, leak test technicians, and offshore barge operators.

The United Kingdom’s offshore oil and gas sector, notably, has been an important pillar of the country’s economy and energy security for many decades, and will face significant change on the path to net zero. It is estimated that the sector supports around 260 000 jobs, including 147 000 direct and supply chain jobs.

Already, between 2014 and 2017, the UK oil and gas sector lost over 70 000 direct and supply chain. Another 80 000 workers are predicted to lose their jobs in the sector between 2018 and 2035.

However, over 90% of the United Kingdom’s oil and gas workforce have medium to high skills transferability so can be suitable to work in other energy sectors, including decommissioning and subsea network projects, offshore wind, CCUS and hydrogen.

The offshore oil and gas industry has supported the United Kingdom’s target to reach net zero emissions by 2050 based on the sector’s Roadmap 2035. This includes a focus on developing people and skills with a commitment to a diverse workforce with transferable skills and to support 130 000 jobs across the energy sector. It also commits the industry to becoming a global leader in carbon management through by fostering knowledge, skills, innovation and capabilities. Key actions will include upskilling workers on the UK Continental Shelf, developing of a plan for a more flexible, multi-skilled and technology-enabled workforce, and ensuring diversity that reflects broader society.

As part of the government’s climate change strategy, it also reached an agreement with the North Sea oil and gas industry to manage the economic transition and transformation of the region. The North Sea Transition Deal includes public and private investments of up to GBP 14-16 billion by 2030 in clean energy technologies, a voluntary commitment by the sector to source 50% local content for energy transition projects by 2030, and support for up to 40 000 direct and indirect jobs as part of efforts to decarbonise offshore oil and gas production.

The commitment to employment will include reskilling of the existing oil and gas workforce. Technologies that will be promoted based on existing skills, infrastructure and expertise in the North Sea include CCUS, hydrogen and offshore wind. The agreement notes that sectors such as offshore renewables, CCUS and hydrogen will rely heavily on a number of skillsets that match the profile of current oil and gas workers, such as geologists, project managers, different types of engineers, and fabricators. As such, the sector will aim to align with initiatives on workforce transition, skills, diversity and inclusion under other Sector Deals (such as the Offshore Wind Sector Deal), where synergies can be found.

However, a deeper understanding of the future skills profile of the CCUS and hydrogen sectors will also be needed. Toward this end, the Energy Skills Alliance has spearheaded work on detailed mapping the energy sectors’ current capabilities and future needs through its Future Energy Skills Demand and Supply workstream. 

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