For many companies in the environmental field, the current crisis means easier access to qualified workers. This situation encourages firms to cut back training for green skills. But without long-term investment, particularly in science and technology training, employers may soon experience a shortage of people with the right skills. In fact, countries with low unemployment are already facing such shortages. The potential repercussions for the European economy and labour market are serious. A forthcoming Cedefop publication suggests this outcome can be avoided if, among other measures, countries integrate skills strategies into their environment and energy policies.

Cedefop has found that despite the role of policy and regulation in influencing demand for green skills, most Member States do not yet integrate national skill strategies with their environment policies. This means environmental goals are not sufficiently backed up by education and training.

What policy-makers can do

The study suggests policy makers should focus on encouraging close cooperation between employers, training providers and workers; developing cohesive policies; and ensuring the provision of guidance and career counselling to make green jobs more attractive.

The Cedefop study covers all educational levels – from nanotechnologists to recycling collectors – in eight EU countries (Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia and the UK) representing various stages of developing a sustainable economy. The main findings were presented at the OECD/Cedefop Green Skills Forum in Paris on 27 February 2012.

What the green economy means for employment

Opening the Forum, Pascaline Descy, Head of Research and Policy Analysis, spelled out the potential for employment. ‘Between 2005 and 2009’, she said, ‘it is estimated that the renewable energy sector generated 220 000 additional jobs. If the EU reaches the objectives set for sustainable growth in the Europe 2020 strategy, the potential for job creation in Europe is over a million new jobs. But these cannot be covered only by fresh graduates – it is imperative to retrain workers, especially as part of the process of restructuring.’