New report says energy sector upskilling crisis is damaging UK’s chances to hit net zero goals

Posted on 6 Jul 2023 by The Manufacturer

It has never been more critical for the UK to move towards greener sources of energy production and our efforts must be bold if we are to meet our commitments in the race against climate change. Yet many UK energy workers don’t believe the sector is adequately prepared for a green future.

Key findings:

  • 60% of those working in high carbon energy roles believe that the move to decarbonise the power system will put their jobs at risk within the next two years alone (by 2025)
  • Only a third (33%) of energy workers think that they have the skills they need to succeed in meeting the future demands of the energy sector
  • Just 42% of energy sector workers feel that businesses in the sector are ready to meet the target to decarbonise UK energy production by 2035

That’s according to new research from City & Guilds, the global skills development organisation, and Engineering UK, which surveyed 1,000 energy sector workers, including 500 in high carbon energy industries (such as oil and gas), and 500 in low carbon industries (such as wind, solar and nuclear).

The week after a report from the Climate Change Committee criticised a failure of action on climate goals, this new research reveals a worrying lack of leadership and support to effectively meet the Government’s target to decarbonise energy production by 2035. Only 42% of energy sector workers feel that businesses in the sector are ready to meet this target, with just 42% believing that the Government is doing enough to support this change.

But strong Government and employer leadership will be critical given the significant changes we’re expecting to see in the energy jobs market. In fact, 60% of those working in the high carbon energy sector believe the move to decarbonise the power system will put their jobs at risk within the next two years alone (by 2025).

This comes as the energy jobs market is already undergoing seismic shifts. Analysis from economists at Lightcast finds that demand for low carbon workers is skyrocketing. For example, job postings for renewable energy managers grew by a staggering 1114% from 2019 to 2022. In contrast, job postings for oil and gas analysts have declined by 43.4% in the same time period.

The good news is that high carbon energy sector employees are open to the transition. In fact, 91% are willing to consider a role in low carbon industries now or in the future.

But there are a myriad of barriers preventing people from moving to low carbon roles. The research found that only a third (33%) of energy workers think that they have the skills they need to adapt to any future changes in the energy industry. On top of this, a quarter of energy sector employees (26%) say that they don’t know how to access training that will allow them to adapt to future changes in the industry.

Andy Moss, Chief Customer Officer at City & Guilds said: “It’s great to know that over 90% of the high carbon energy workforce are interested in transitioning to greener jobs. To meet the skills needs of the sector, it’s vital we create opportunities for people to do just that.

“Yet, many employers have told us that uncertainty over the timing and scope of major energy projects inhibits their ability to invest in skills for the long-term. We must unite to tackle this, with industry and government working in partnership to equip the energy workforce with the green skills required for the future. If we don’t act now, we’ll almost certainly lose the race to a more sustainable future.”

Nick Worpole, Associate Director EMEA at Spencer Ogden, a global energy and infrastructure recruitment firm, said:“There is a huge opportunity for workers in oil and gas industries to transfer their skills and experience to low carbon energy industries. But not all employers recognise this potential. And this is not only holding back candidates from moving across to roles in low carbon energy, but it’s also preventing employers from recruiting the skilled people they need.

“As the need for talent in low carbon energy grows, employers in these industries need to change their perspective and recognise that if they’re to solve immediate and longer-term skills shortages, they need to take advantage of the huge wealth of knowledge, skills and experience that workers can transfer across from high carbon energy sectors. And they should offer opportunities for candidates to upskill and get key qualifications as part of their onboarding.”


In its new report Bright Futures: Decarbonising the UK’s Energy Workforce, City & Guilds has set out key recommendations for employers, Government and educators:

    1. We need stronger policy frameworks that provide commitment and certainty to the market, enabling industry to invest in skills with confidence.
    2. We need to work locally and collaboratively to support levelling up and a just transition.
    3. We must invest in skills and lifelong learning.
    4. We need to collaborate on skills, training and qualifications to support a robust skills pipeline.

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