Skills shortages threaten the green revolution

Skills shortages in Lancashire’s low carbon businesses are limiting growth and will hold the county back from reaching its net-zero ambitions, according to worrying new research.

The study by the Work Foundation is based on widespread engagement with businesses at the forefront of the county’s drive to net zero.

It features a survey of 53 low carbon businesses operating in Lancashire, alongside in-depth interviews with business leaders working across the sector.

Nearly half of the surveyed businesses (47 per cent) reported that they are finding it difficult to recruit staff with the skills they need, and almost a third are finding it hard recruiting employees with specialist skills.

These challenges are causing many organisations to turn to in-house training to plug recruitment gaps. Of the businesses surveyed, 81 per cent revealed they deliver their own in-house training with the most common reason for this being skills needs that can’t be met by external providers.

The study also highlights how these skills gaps are preventing low carbon businesses in the county from reaching their full potential, with firms reporting increased workloads, rising operational costs and delays to the development of new products and services - all caused by recruitment difficulties.

Trinley Walker, policy advisor at the Work Foundation, said: “With government firmly committed to net-zero by 2050, Lancashire will be under the spotlight as home to a vibrant industry that can support the UK’s ambitions for clean energy growth.

“However, if Lancashire is to deliver on its true capabilities, the needs of low carbon businesses must be at the very heart of co-developed skills provision.

“Attracting the right candidates is also a concern among local employers so exploring new ways to attract young people to the sector will be crucial, alongside building clear career pathways.”

The report reveals that only 36 per cent of businesses engage with schools or colleges to promote the sector among young people locally.

Trinley said: “The fact that the sector is somewhat disengaged from the skills pipeline illustrates a clear gap but also presents an opportunity to shape training provision and nurture a local talent pool.”

Recommendations from the Work Foundation report include increased support for workers to “transition” into the low carbon sector, so vital skills are re-shaped rather than lost.

Businesses within the sector should also work with education providers to “excite and inspire” young people to work within the low carbon sector, establishing clear pathways to employment.

Sarah Kemp, chief executive of Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, said: “The potential scale of that opportunity for Lancashire – not just in terms of decarbonising but also in terms of manufacturing and exporting clean energy technologies, driving economic growth and job creation – is enormous.

“But we can only fulfil that potential if we have the right workforce with the right skills and training.”

She added: “It is clear that businesses are already adapting to find ways to ensure they have staff with the required skills. We now need to encourage government and education institutions to do more to ensure that Lancashire can fulfil its low carbon potential.”

The Work Foundation is a leading think tank for improving work in the UK and is part of Lancaster University’s Management School.

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