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Keys to Building the Net-Zero Workforce

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Jane Marsh's picture
Editor, Environment.co

Jane Marsh is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co. She covers topics related to climate policy, sustainability, renewable energy and more.

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  • Dec 7, 2022
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The road toward emissions-free energy is underway, with gears shifting aggressively toward developing a net-zero workforce. According to the United Nations, about 30 million renewable energy jobs must be created by 2025 to achieve climate change goals of 1.5° Celsius by 2050 — the number of vacancies will need to jump to 60 million by 2030.

As experts predict renewable energy investments will triple by the decade's end, the sector must increase its labor twice over. Leaders should take this four-step approach to build a net-zero workforce to restrict global warming.

  1. Generate Interest

A 2021 Pew Research Center survey found 72% of respondents were concerned about how climate change would impact their lives. Of that, about 80% were willing to alter their behaviors to reduce their carbon footprint and protect the environment.

Those who enter the renewable energy sector want their work to affect the planet and people positively. They also seek jobs with long-term security and career advancement opportunities. The net-zero workforce provides just that as the sector continuously expands with emerging technologies, discoveries and renewed interest in energy alternatives.

The National Grid's recent Building the Net-Zero Energy Workforce report underscores consumer enthusiasm for sustainability and a talent pool that prioritizes climate change — an indication that careers with a purpose matter.

  1. Integrate Emerging Technologies

The latest renewable energy technologies will undoubtedly attract more individuals to the field. While some industries — such as construction — lag behind digital advancement, wider adoption of green tech will drive productivity and efficiency.

After continuous growth for years, the pandemic threw a wrench in renewable energy employment. Following a 10% year-over-year decrease in job vacancies by mid-2020 — or 1.4 million jobs — nearly 520,000 jobs returned by 2021.

Although trends continue to head in the correct direction, many industries felt the setback. Renewable energy technologies help pick up the slack, including those pertaining to 3-D printing, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and other modalities that help optimize tasks.

Naturally, enhanced productivity means eliminating mundane tasks that take up time. For example, new technologies improve self-repair solutions to reduce downtime and enhance maintenance processes. Others increase workplace safety and accuracy with highly-advanced 3-D features and modulation.

  1. Provide Advanced Training

As fossil-fuel plants shut down operations, more laborers are left unemployed and looking for work elsewhere. However, while many of their skills are transferable to the emissions-free energy sector, emphasis must be placed on advanced training to boost their aptitudes for the renewables market.

Renewable energy consumption is estimated to increase by 2.3% annually between 2015 and 2040. Therefore, the workforce needs to adapt quickly to meet demand.

For instance, design strategies and renewable engineering typically differ from traditional energy sources. The lack of knowledge in this particular area poses a disruption to the sector's development.

Entry-level workers from engineering to construction to supply chain delivery require interactive skills-based training. Additionally, the current workforce will benefit from the ongoing practice of equipment use and software to stay abreast of evolving trends, primarily regarding data analytics and the use of AI.

The net-zero workforce can only progress if the people behind the change have the means and expertise to transform it. With millions expected to join or transition to a net-zero workforce, training will become the epicenter of high performance.

  1. Streamline Processes

Expanding a net-zero workforce also demands a more streamlined process focused on upskilling, engineering, higher capital, academic opportunities and greater efficiency.

Rapid integration of technologies and procedures is also necessary, including modular manufacturing that moves from outdoor construction and assembly to indoor facilities. This will enhance worker safety, productivity and accuracy.

Standardizing renewable energy designs is conducive to improving the functionality of work processes, optimizing efficiency and eliminating mistakes.

The Net-Zero Workforce Is on the Way Up

As many have realized there's no slowing down climate change, the same could be said for the net-zero workforce. The world has entered a crossroads. Depending on how well people grow renewable energy labor, everyone can change the world's energy market to meet future demand.

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