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Bridging Europe’s Green Skills Gap: Lessons from the UK

The UK’s experience in bridging the green skills gap offers valuable lessons for the rest of …

As Europe grapples with the urgent need for sustainable development, the United Kingdom offers a compelling case study. The UK’s low-carbon industries, including hydrogen, carbon capture, and nuclear, are at a crucial juncture. They must not only inspire the next generation of workers but also support the transition of existing employees to meet the demands of a net-zero economy. This article synthesizes insights from a recent report “Greenprint for Skills for the Low-Carbon Industries” by Cogent Skills.

“The transition to a low-carbon economy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enhance our resilience to the impact of seismic global events and spearhead a new chapter of green growth.” – Professor Joe Howe, University of Lincoln

The Current State of Affairs

The UK has seen a concerning decline in apprenticeships in engineering and manufacturing, dropping from 75,050 in 2016-17 to 49,110 in 2021-22. This decline is alarming, given the critical role of these sectors in achieving a net-zero carbon economy. The “Greenprint” report emphasizes that the skills required for this transition are not just for scientists and engineers but also for technicians and operators.

“What is clear is unless our industry can access the next generation of talent – including engineers, scientists, technicians, and operators – any plan for a just transition is destined to fall short.” – Justine Fosh, Chief Executive, Cogent Skills

Challenges and Opportunities

One of the key challenges is the lack of clarity around the specific skills and roles needed in emerging sectors like hydrogen and carbon capture. The existing workforce, particularly in transitioning industries like petroleum and chemicals, is also hesitant to invest their careers in these sectors. On the flip side, young people are highly motivated to combat climate change but are unaware of the career opportunities in low-carbon industries.

“The challenge lies in raising awareness of the available job opportunities and encouraging them to pursue careers in these fields.” – Greenprint Report


  1. Skills Strategy: Develop an industry-led low-carbon skills strategy for each technology area and anticipate future skills demand in different growth scenarios.
  2. Skills System: Foster a stable policy environment that encourages long-term strategic planning and diversifies apprenticeship standards to reflect modern technological needs.
  3. Future Workforce: Promote outreach programs to educate and inspire young people and undertake research to understand equality, diversity, and inclusion issues in the workforce.
  4. Enabling the Transition: Promote a culture of lifelong learning and define pathways to facilitate the transition of workers from adjacent industries.

“Industry needs to take proactive measures to address concerns and emphasize the opportunities for innovation and growth in the sector.” – Greenprint Report

The Way Forward

Both reports stress the need for proactive action. The UK’s approach, as outlined in these reports, offers a roadmap for other European countries. By focusing on skills development and fostering a collaborative spirit among stakeholders, we can not only meet the demands of an evolving workforce but also make significant strides toward a sustainable future.

“By fostering a spirit of collaboration, strategic thinking, and–most importantly–action, we can rise to the challenge and unlock the vast potential of our emerging low-carbon industries.” – Greenprint Report

The UK’s experience in bridging the green skills gap offers valuable lessons for the rest of Europe. As we collectively aim for a more sustainable future, the need for a skilled workforce in low-carbon industries has never been more critical. It’s not just a UK issue; it’s a European imperative.

About the Author

Cogent Skills is the UK’s premier strategic body for skills in the science and technology sector. As a not-for-profit enterprise, Cogent Skills is dedicated to meeting the skills needs and ambitions of employers and their employees across various science industries, including Life Sciences, Industrial Sciences, and Nuclear.

Their expertise in employer-led facilitation allows them to support industry-leading skills groups like the Nuclear Skills Strategy Group (NSSG) and The Science Industry Partnership (SIP). Owned by key trade associations in their sector, Cogent Skills is committed to collaborative, employer-led action to improve the skills landscape for all, aiming to support the long-term growth and development of skills in their sector.

For the full report, you can visit Greenprint for Skills for the Low-Carbon Industries.