Wanted: More skills for workers as green jobs grow

A field geologist performs ground stability testing at a solar power plant development site located on a former coal mine in Hurley, western Virginia, U.S., May 11, 2021.  REUTERS/Dane Rhys

A field geologist performs ground stability testing at a solar power plant development site located on a former coal mine in Hurley, western Virginia, U.S., May 11, 2021. REUTERS/Dane Rhys

What’s the context?

Ahead of COP28, LinkedIn says companies are expanding hiring for green jobs, but workers lack the skills needed to meet climate goals

This story is part of a series on transforming the world of work for a greener, fairer global economy: "Green jobs for a just transition"

  • Seven in eight workers lack green skills, women behind
  • Growth in demand for green talent outstripping supply
  • Training, skills programmes needed to meet climate goals

BARCELONA - As scientists increasingly sound the alarm about the impacts of accelerating climate change and nature loss on our lives, the need to transform the global economy to run on clean energy, cut waste and reuse natural resources is becoming ever more urgent.

To make that happen, we will have to change the way we work.

Putting in place policies and investment to move companies and consumers onto a more sustainable path could create tens of millions of green jobs this decade, studies show.

But a major factor holding back the green economy, according to labour market experts, is a global shortage of the skills required to build it, which are poorly understood and promoted.

In its 2023 Global Green Skills Report, professional networking platform LinkedIn found only one in eight workers have green skills, based on data from its more than 930 million users worldwide.

Ahead of the COP28 climate conference starting on Nov. 30 in Dubai, LinkedIn warned that global climate targets, including cutting planet-heating emissions to net zero, would be missed without urgent action to close the green skills gap.

"Climate change conversations must be matched with adequate funding to upskill workers - and that includes support for businesses to implement training programmes and ultimately green jobs. The future of our planet depends on green talent," said Allen Blue, LinkedIn co-founder and vice president for product management.

Here is where the key challenges and opportunities lie:

What is a green job and what green skills are in demand?

Common perceptions of green jobs include installers of solar panels, wind turbines and heat pumps, or conservationists working in nature reserves. But the field is much broader.

The fast-expanding electric vehicle sector, for example, requires miners to provide the metals, assembly-line workers and engineers to make the cars and scooters, mechanics to maintain them, and urban planners to design green transport systems.

There is a growing awareness among governments and businesses that adopting less-polluting and healthier lifestyles will require major changes to nearly every economic sector.

That demands a huge boost in technical skills that make economic activities environmentally sustainable and can be deployed across a wide range of existing and new professions.

Examples include pollution mitigation and waste prevention, environmental restoration, sustainable procurement, energy generation and management, and carbon emissions accounting.

Globally, green hiring increased by 24% above the overall hiring rate this year, according to LinkedIn. The United States raced ahead, peaking at 44% faster growth and Britain at 30%.

A graph showing the rate of green hiring in comparison to all hiring across the world. LinkedIn/Handout via Thomson Reuters Foundation

A graph showing the rate of green hiring in comparison to all hiring across the world. LinkedIn/Handout via Thomson Reuters Foundation

A graph showing the rate of green hiring in comparison to all hiring across the world. LinkedIn/Handout via Thomson Reuters Foundation

But the online platform's data showed a sustainable skills shortage in every country and every industry around the world.

"It's absolutely vital that we increase the supply of green skills and green workers so that we have the talent available in the economy to move this transition forward," said Sue Duke, LinkedIn's head of global public policy.

She told Context there are three main areas where LinkedIn sees surging demand for green skills: oversight and regulation of carbon emissions, renewable energy and corporate leadership.

From 2016 to mid-2023, the workforce in renewable energy increased by 26% across 26 countries measured, led by solar and wind power, while the oil and gas sector workforce shrank by 21% in 38 countries, though it is still five times larger.

Duke said there is a particular demand for top business executives with green skills because organisations need their leaders to design and implement climate action plans.

What is needed to close the green skills gap?

According to LinkedIn, between 2022 and 2023, the share of green talent in the workforce - meaning members who include green skills in their profile and/or are working in a green job - rose by 12.3%, while the share of job postings requiring at least one green skill grew nearly twice as quickly, by 22.4%.

UK-based recruitment firm PageGroup in 2022 placed five times more people in sustainability and ESG consultant roles globally than in 2021.

But Joanna Bonnett, its head of sustainability, said that despite the increasing competition in all sectors, "we have seen that many job-seekers who would be interested in these roles feel they do not have the right skills or experience to do so".

Britain, for example, is grappling with a shortage of experienced nature and conservation staff that sector experts have warned threatens the country's efforts to accelerate nature restoration and meet climate and biodiversity targets.

Workers from government, charities and businesses told Context there are crucial gaps in the labour force, with intense competition for specialists such as ecologists and hydrologists.

Ahead of COP28, LinkedIn urged governments to commit to including green training, reskilling and upskilling in their national climate plans and policies, and to pair green skills development with regulation of carbon-intensive industries.

Business leaders, it said, can help bridge the gap by developing an in-depth understanding of the skills they need to meet their climate goals and putting in place reskilling programmes, as well as on-the-job training.

IKEA, for example, has trained its 20,000 food workers in technology that has cut the furniture giant's food waste by 50%, while drinks multinational Diageo is partnering with the University of Oxford to equip its executives with ESG skills.

Where are the biggest green skills gaps?

LinkedIn has highlighted the low level of green skills in finance, where only one in 15 workers have such credentials, putting it behind industries such as energy and mining, although finance is now adding green talent faster than other areas.

Jobs in high-emitting emerging economies, such as India, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia, rely more on green skills than the global average, LinkedIn noted in a 2022 report.

A 2023 study of 10 economies by the World Economic Forum estimated that to meet environmental goals, Australia, Brazil, Britain, China, Germany, India, Japan, South Africa, Spain and the United States need at least 12 million more green jobs - a 66% rise.

Many of those jobs are in farming and forestry, with other key sectors including infrastructure, government and energy.

Other global concerns include a frequent mismatch between areas where fossil fuel mines or power plants are closing and new clean energy industries are springing up, as that makes it harder for workers to transition between roles.

And the quality of some jobs has been questioned, especially in developing countries with high levels of informal employment.

Ahead of COP28, LinkedIn also warned of a widening green gender gap, with only one woman considered as green talent for every two men, and less than one in every 10 female workers possessing any green skills.

Duke said this was partly due to the high requirement for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills in green jobs, where women have traditionally lagged behind due to gender bias in education.

LinkedIn's data also show women's underrepresentation in leadership is more pronounced in green industries, where they hold just 21% of C-suite roles and 20% of vice president roles, compared to 25% and 27% respectively across the global economy.

"We are going to need all the world's talent - not half... if we're going to be able to drive this transition, so it is a very worrying trend that we need to address upfront," said Duke.

This could be done by incorporating gender targets into workforce training and STEM education programmes, as well as providing more networking opportunities for women, she said.

This article was updated on Nov. 21 with new data from LinkedIn, and its call to governments ahead of COP28.

(Reporting by Megan Rowling; Editing by Jon Hemming.)

Context is powered by the Thomson Reuters Foundation Newsroom.

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles

Workers assemble electric scooters at the Ather Energy factory in Hosur, India, April 20, 2022

Part of:

Green jobs for a just transition

How should we transform the way we work to secure a greener and fairer future for all?

Updated: May 02, 2023


  • Net-zero
  • Future of work
  • Workers' rights
  • Green jobs
  • Climate solutions

Get our climate newsletter. Free. Every week.

By providing your email, you agree to our Privacy Policy.

Latest on Context