Green jobs soaring beyond available labor force

3/1/2022
 

The rise in demand for green jobs is dramatically outpacing that of the oil and gas sector — and the talent needed to supply it, according to a recent report from LinkedIn.

The ​​number of jobs in renewables in the U.S has increased by 237 percent over the last five years, the report found — compared to a 19 percent rise in oil and gas jobs.

“At this pace, we are predicting that the renewables & environment sector will outnumber oil & gas in total jobs on our platform by 2023,” the report by the Microsoft-owned company found.

There has been a steady, significant uptick in demand for job postings requiring “green skills” such “pollution prevention,” “ecosystem management” and “environmental policy,” with sustainable fashion being the fastest-growing sector globally.

But the data also reveal a glaring gap: Green jobs only made up 10 percent of hiring in 2021, compared to 50 percent for non-green jobs.

“We are nowhere close to having sufficient green talent, green skills or green jobs to deliver the green transition,” the LinkedIn report found.

There’s also a green jobs shortfall when it comes to demand — good news for job applicants, and bad news for businesses seeking to hire them. Demand for green job skills increased 8 percent between 2016 and 2021 — but supply of such skills only went up by 6 percent, leaving a significant shortfall.

Without faster growth in the number of people bringing green skills to the jobs that require them, the LinkedIn team found, “we are not going to have sufficient human capital to meet our climate targets.”

The report is based on hiring and job posting data from LinkedIn, which bills itself as the world’s largest online professional network. This is an imperfect metric, just as, say, Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reports on green employment are dependent on self-reported survey data.

Based on that data, a 2021 BLS report found that certain green jobs were likely to far outpace average hiring between 2019 and 2029. For example, demand for conservation scientists and green chemists was expected to be 5 percent above average employment rates; while environmental scientist and hazardous material removal jobs were expected to grow 8 percent faster than the average average — and solar photovoltaic installers at 50 percent faster.

The LinkedIn report backed up these findings, noting that demand for job skills such as sustainable fashion, oil spill response, ecosystem management and proficiency in solar systems all grew by more than 50 percent between 2016 and 2021.

Some of these positions were traditional green jobs, for which some current growth rates appear to be accelerating. Over the past five years, for example, average growth for wind turbine technicians and solar consultants were each about 23 percent.

But over just the period from 2020-2021, wind turbine technician demand skyrocketed by nearly 90 percent, and solar consultants by nearly 60 percent.

But most of the LinkedIn postings now calling for green skills were not traditional green jobs, but attempts by existing organizations to bring sustainability, supply chain and environmental health concerns to their existing operations — or at least signal to investors that they’re doing so.

This meant a boom in demand for less specialized jobs with openings across industries — particularly in positions such as sustainability managers, who work to cut an organization’s environmental impacts; environmental health and safety specialists, who oversee public health concerns within organizations; and compliance managers, who make sure organizations are following the law.

The growth in these more general and administrative categories suggests that a driving force on the growth in demand for green jobs skills is pressure from environmental, social and governance (ESG) investors, who are eager to see companies making definite changes.

In some countries — like those in the European Union, which is in the early stages of its Green Deal, and in some U.S. states — another pressure is likely to be existing and expected regulation.

In Europe, that has helped drive one of the largest and most consistent areas of growth in green skill demand: the European auto industry, which saw its share of green talent grow at a steady annual 10 percent between 2015 and 2021.

A few specific European auto industry jobs grew much faster than that in the survey period: demand for skills in electric vehicles went up by 51 percent; energy storage by nearly 40 percent; and in lithium-ion batteries by nearly 30 percent.

The global report has one glaring omission: China, where LinkedIn struggled to gain market share and ultimately shut down its service last October, according to a company post.

 
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