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  • Writer's pictureRussell Burton

How green skills training improves profits

Updated: Mar 7, 2022

Whether you’re an SME or a college, upskilling for a green society is the key to a positive balance sheet - we explore why, and the steps you can take today.

The background

In the economic recovery post-Covid (or at least the year following the start of the pandemic), the focus on Build Back Better and a green recovery has highlighted the gap of green skills in the market.

Green collar jobs, otherwise known as roles in the environmental sectors of the economy, are on the rise. Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, has promised a “green industrial revolution” going from 410,000 now to two million of these jobs by 2030, as part of its plans for an economy with zero fossil fuel emissions.

A green society is on its way and local industry including SMEs as well as colleges and the education sector are critical to its development.

According to an estimate by the International Energy Agency in June, 14 million jobs (including 117,000 in the UK) will have to be filled before the end of this decade to service the world’s growing green energy infrastructure. Across the UK economy, 6.3 million jobs could be affected by the national push for carbon neutrality, requiring their holders to acquire new skills.

Yet, in only May this year, the RAC stated that just 5% of the UK's 202,000 vehicle technicians are qualified to work on electric cars. A signpost that there is a gap of skills in the market.

Why is the government placing such a focus on the environment?

Our economic system is underpinned by nature and its resilience to survive. Storm, flood, and other freak weather damage coupled with lack of resources due to the impact on biodiversity all lead to increased financial cost to correct.

From a commercial point of view, a shortage in resources has a knock-on effect on businesses reliant on supplies, and damage to premises is another factor to consider. Not only that, but consumers are beginning to demand businesses ‘go green’ and are willing to boycott them if they don’t.

We need the natural world to flourish so that businesses can prosper, too.

Conservation International reports that natural climate solutions such as restoring degraded forests and building renewable energy systems could create as many as 39 jobs per million dollars spent — that's a job-creation rate more than six times higher than the oil and gas industry.

Profitability - the commercial and social benefits

There is a cyclical benefit to ‘green-skilling’ for SMEs, local authorities, and the education sector.

Moving to renewable energy saves capital spent on fossil-fuelled energy bills for large organisations, both public and private. Facilitating this move requires investment in SMEs to provide the kit, construction, project management, stakeholder reassurance, and training as well as many other components to the plan.

Take this example of a school undergoing an energy retrofit…

  • Heat Pumps, Solar Power, battery storage, and AI are installed to move the school to a renewable energy system.

  • This enables the school to balance its energy needs to use power at the most economic times and store surplus electricity generation for use during peak grid electricity pricing.

  • The result: buildings do not need to rely on the grid and can also partake in market trading with any energy they don't require.

  • This saves capital for the school itself and the local authority that funds it.

  • Therefore, there is a benefit to that local authority to encourage schools and other hubs in the community to retrofit their energy systems.

  • Local SMEs are called upon for supplies, installation, people management etc.

  • Green skills are needed - the education sector, particularly colleges, are required to train an eco-talent pool.

The school example gives context, but the rewards go far beyond this cycle:

  • There is a positive correlation between the effectiveness of an organisation’s sustainability practices and its stock price.

  • The initial costs of the transition towards more sustainable practices or low-carbon projects can be further offset by the long-term profits which they can create.

  • An organisation’s longevity can also be extended through implementing more sustainable measures as it can improve its competitiveness.

  • We go into more detail in our ‘Green recovery - what’s in it for you?’ blog

How to upskill students and colleagues to build an eco-workforce

The importance of developing green skills is clear. We are beginning to see a movement between councils, schools/colleges, and local SMEs to develop an environmentally trained workforce to promote economic recovery in the community.

Hillside Environmental is currently working with a local city council on a strategy that will release £200m of funding to support local SMEs in this kind of upskilling. The council is encouraging SMEs to build relationships with colleges to develop green training plans. The benefit is threefold: the SME gains employees suited to environmental jobs, the college is able to offer students hands-on training, and the SME can take on eco-focused contracts.

If businesses are to ensure longevity, they need to consider their future people pipeline - 65% of students cite a role that contributes to helping the environment as an important factor in applying for jobs.

Installing renewable energy systems in your own organisation

The funding and help are out there - Hillside is a specialist in Green Finance applications, with a network of sustainability funds that we can help you to access. You can find out more about Green Finance in our guide.

Our approach balances nature and finance. We understand that becoming sustainable relies on budget and organisations cannot afford to break the bank. Our focus is on realistic economics.

This case study is a great example of utilising funding and this one is an inspiring project that we supported to move to renewable energy using savings generated from the project itself.

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