Official response to Environmental Audit Committee report on green skills appears to reject calls for immediate changes to national curriculum and training schemes

The government has today formally responded to the Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC) recent report on the green jobs market, reiterating its commitment to boosting the UK’s green skills base and confirming a number of Ministers are to be appointed to its new Green Jobs Deliver Group.

But the response left MPs on the EAC disappointed after the government appeared to reject recommendations for immediate changes to the National Curriculum to better embed understanding of environmental and green skills issues and the introduction of a more comprehensive net zero skills strategy.

In the response the government said its overarching Net Zero Strategy “sets out the government’s overall approach to working with industry to create the workforce to deliver net zero and support workers in-high carbon sectors with the transition”.

It acknowledged that the Strategy represents a “first step” in addressing some of the green skills challenges identified by industry and experts, but stressed that various efforts were underway to help tackle any looming skills shortages.

Specifically, it highlighted how the Department for Education launched a draft Climate and Sustainability Strategy at the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow last year and confirmed the Department for Work and Pensions is considering how net zero and environmental goals can be incorporated into the design stages of future labour market interventions. The government also said it would report periodically on progress on embedding green jobs across government schemes.

And the response confirmed the recently formed Green Jobs Delivery Group will include Ministers from the Departments for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Education (DfE), Work & Pensions (DWP) and Transport (DfT) alongside an industry co-chair.

However, the EAC said it had written to the government expressing concern that Ministers from the Treasury and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities would not be included in the Green Jobs Deliver Group.

And it expressed disappointment that many of its specific policy recommendations on better embedding environmental sustainability across all primary and secondary school courses and in A Levels and apprenticeships.

EAC chair Philip Dunne said the government’s “general commitment to ensure the right skills are in place for the green transition is welcome, as is the work being done by the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure how green goals can be incorporated into labour market interventions”.

But he reiterated warnings that the UK’s green skills strategy was not sufficiently ambitious and co-ordinated.

“When we published our report in October, we expressed concern that the government’s grand ambitions to deliver two million green jobs lacked policy detail,” he said. “This is sadly borne out in the response. Government departments lack a central coordination function to deliver green jobs policies. The national curriculum is not embedding environmental sustainability nor even restoring the teaching of nature into schools as we had recommended. The government’s response to our report is therefore disappointing.

“This government’s current piecemeal approach to green jobs does not give the confidence boost to those industrial sectors that will require, and need to develop, the green skills of the future.”

The EAC’s warnings come amidst widespread fears among green businesses that skills shortages in an already tight labour market could disrupt a raft of critical net zero infrastructure projects. Business groups and trade unions have repeatedly warned that the concurrent development of a wave of major low carbon infrastructure projects over the coming decade will create hundreds of thousands of new roles, many of which require highly technical skills.

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