Net Zero Skills Charter: North West outlines plan for 660,000-strong low carbon workforce

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Employers and universities will work together to fill skills gaps to ensure a just transition to net zero. Credit: Net Zero North West

Employers and universities will work together to fill skills gaps to ensure a just transition to net zero. Credit: Net Zero North West

Businesses, universities, and policymakers unite to help prepare workforce and young people for jobs of tomorrow

A 'Net Zero Skills Charter' and action plan will outline how the North West can build a 660,000-strong low carbon workforce, as part of the UK's first regional skills plan.

The initiative, which was launched this week, is a collaboration between a range of organisations in the region, including Net Zero North West (NZNW), the North West Business Leadership Team (NWBLT), and academic institutions including Manchester Metropolitan University. 

The group is to develop a Net Zero Skills Charter, which will identify and address the skills gaps facing the green economy and put in place an action plan to make sure businesses and industry have access to the talent they need to successfully transition to, and succeed in, a net zero emission economy.

"The North West is already leading the UK's net zero future, slashing carbon emissions and carving a new path by creating a green industrial economy with a workforce of over 660,000. But, the availability of the right skills will be a significant risk to reaching our climate goals if we don't act now," said Carl Ennis, chair of Net Zero North West and CEO at Siemens UK.

"We're spearheading a joined-up approach between industry, education and the region's elected leaders to make sure we have the right people and skills available at the right time to benefit from a wave of green jobs on the horizon. Such a joined-up approach, through a Net Zero Skills Charter, will ensure we set the blueprint for how to train and retain low carbon talent in the region, and then export that expertise out to the rest of the UK, Europe and the world," he added.

The launch of the group came alongside the publication of a new report from Manchester Metropolitan University in partnership with NZNW and NWBLT, titled The Net Zero Skills Challenge: Developing a Net Zero 2030 Action Plan, which argued that a dedicated skills plan will be critical to managing the transition to net zero emissions and ensuring students, individuals, and businesses can benefit from the shift towards net zero. 

"Net zero is a huge opportunity, not only to create a better future for our planet, but to create thousands of better futures for our people," said Professor Malcolm Press, Vice-Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University. "This report is an important reminder that, while carbon transition will see some technologies and jobs disappear, it will also create new roles and new technologies. The North West, once the cradle of the industrial revolution, can once again lead our nation and our world in imagining and creating a prosperous future."

The report follows a North West Climate Change Careers Summit, organised by Agent Academy, in partnership with NWBLT and NZNW. The event was hosted by young people and brought businesses and ;future talent' together, to explore the opportunities that emerging green jobs will bring.

Over 300 attendees heard from leading North West employers about their net zero plans, including Bruntwood, Peel Ports, Baxi, Arup, Kingspan, Promake, Dsposal, and CGI.

Gemma Sparkes, 22, a learner at Agent Academy and host on the day, said: "There has been a lot of talk about the job opportunities that the green economy will bring, but often this doesn't resonate with me as it seems out of reach. The event was refreshing as I got to listen to people like me, who are in the early years of their careers, share their journeys and give insight into how I might follow a similar path."  

A similar green careers event is now being planned to take place later this year in the North West, marking the first anniversary of the COP26 Climate Summit.

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