Investing for future generations
A green economy offers new job opportunities. Ensuring that current and future workers have the right skills is essential for the successful transition to a circular economy, and requires significant investment.
What do a designer, an engineer, an urban planner and a banker have in common? The answer is that all or part of their job may be linked to environmental protection.
Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
Greening the economy and creating green jobs will require significant investment in Europe's future generations. The eco-industries offer great opportunities for young people. But it is not just in the core "eco-industries', such as energy, waste and water treatment, and air quality that new jobs and skills profiles are emerging.
Almost all sectors will be involved in transforming production systems to make more intelligent use of resources and technology. Since 2000, employment in the eco-industries has risen by 20 % and produced over 4.2 million jobs. It is estimated that by increasing resource productivity in the EU by 30 % by 2030 could boost GDP by 1 % and create 2 million jobs.
Bridging the skills gap and ensuring workers have the right skills means mapping employers' fast-evolving needs, and delivering tailored training. But green jobs are not just hi-tech jobs. Europe will certainly need scientists, researchers and engineers to develop cutting-edge technologies, but such innovative solutions must be applied practically in the "real world' across various sectors. For example, an architect may design the perfect eco-house, but the building work will still be carried out by joiners, electricians and plumbers. Thus, it is vital that these workers get the necessary training to exploit the latest green technologies and applications.
Member States moving ahead
Initiatives are already under way in some Member States to better equip their workforces.
In Estonia, state-owned energy firm Eesti Energia plans to cut its carbon emissions by training workers in wind energy, hydroelectricity and energy-audit skills geared towards greener energy production.
In the UK, British Gas has opened its first green skills training centre in Wales, providing hands-on training in renewable and energy-efficient systems for over 1300 people a year. Future Skills Scotland is analysing future labour market trends and higher education institutions are factoring potential changes arising from a greener economy into their courses.
Besides indirect sectors, like eco-tourism, organic farming will also benefit, as will those supplying the eco-industries.
Several EU financial instruments are helping Member States and social and economic actors to invest in developing skills: the European Structural and Investment Fund, in particular the European Social Fund, Erasmus+, the EU's education and training programme, and the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The Commission is also working on a new skills initiative to address forecasting and anticipating skills needs.