The ECITB’s Head of Strategy, Policy and Insights Jenny Young, a panellist at the COP26 Green Career Pathways event on 7th November, on what net zero means for industry jobs.

Jenny Young, ECITB Head of Strategy, Policy and Insights

It’s a privilege to have a platform at COP26 to explore how education and training will help deliver net zero. As the employer-led Government skills body for the engineering construction industry, the ECITB will play a key role in making sure our network of supply chain companies has a workforce equipped for the energy transition. Training must align with employers’ needs and prepare new entrants for green careers if we are to deliver the full number of planned projects needed to decarbonise our energy sector.

However, in our industry, the path to net zero is complex with swift transformation required in some sectors and gradual evolution in others. Adoption of green technologies, such as hydrogen fuel and offshore wind, will take place alongside work in existing carbon-intensive sectors to improve efficiency and reduce emissions.

Engineers and technicians who operate and maintain the UK’s energy assets, like oil refineries, already possess many of the core skills required to operate and maintain new carbon capture and hydrogen facilities. For them, the energy transition will be about a change of context, not a change of career; it will be about topping up knowledge or applying existing skills in new environments. For the ECITB, our suite of technical training standards and programmes remain vital to industry and will be under constant review to reflect new technologies and techniques as they emerge.

Careers in a green energy sector will prove attractive to new recruits, but there will also be huge opportunities to work on decarbonising existing sites such as oil and gas platforms or refineries. The transition is just that, a transition, and we will still need to train and develop a workforce able to design, construct, operate, maintain, decommission and decarbonise these assets – alongside new net zero projects – for many years to come.

The challenges facing the workforce extend beyond just core engineering skills. Energy transition requires knowledge to be applied to new technologies and in new situations where practical experience is limited. New engineering recruits will need a pioneering mindset; they must be more agile, able to problem solve, work with big data and bring new digital skills to industry.

The ECITB is committed to supporting industry as it navigates the energy transition. As we develop our new strategy, to be published next year, our focus on net zero will only grow.