Jobs and the Future of Work

The green transition requires an upskilled workforce. Here's why

The green transition, combined with advances in AI, will be the next major transformations shaping the future of work.

The green transition, combined with advances in AI, will be the next major transformations shaping the future of work. Image: Getty Images

Jonas Prising
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, ManpowerGroup
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Jobs and Skills

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • The green transition, combined with advances in AI, will be the next major transformations shaping the future of work.
  • Yet, according to ManpowerGroup research, nearly 94% of companies report not having the talent needed to implement their ESG plans.
  • At the Annual Meeting in Davos, we have a great opportunity to leverage our collective impact and bring greater prominence to the people/skills aspect of the green transition.

The impacts of climate change have never been more apparent. 2023 was the hottest year ever recorded and leaders once again came together to commit to climate action at last year's COP28. Yet, at the same time, a weakening economy and high inflation are impacting the cost of living in many places, leading some governments to pull back on their green commitments.

There is no doubt that steps to move towards new sources of energy and a move away from fossil fuels, combined with advances in AI that will impact all our daily lives, will be the next major transformations shaping the future of work. This convergence of huge shifts creates greater urgency to reskill and upskill people for growth jobs and to help people overcome fear and polarization as they struggle to see where their skills fit in a world that will undoubtedly become greener and more digital.

We know from previous workforce transformations that new jobs will be created as transformation gains pace. Yet, we also know that ensuring people can see where their skills fit will be critical to bridging the skills gap that is already emerging. According to ManpowerGroup research, nearly 8 in 10 organizations are developing environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies to address this crisis, but 94% of companies report not having the talent needed to implement their ESG plans.

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What's the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?

Targeted reskilling

Targeted reskilling initiatives will ensure people see their place in the greener future and that companies have the critical talent they need to achieve their sustainability plans and unlock the potential in transitioning mature sectors, as well as new growth sectors.

The shift to green has the potential to create millions of well-paid, sustainable jobs, from new battery technology transforming the auto industry to hydrogen impacting transport, agriculture and more. A new report from ManpowerGroup and Cepsa, estimates up to two million new roles will be created in the hydrogen value chain by 2040. Nevertheless, the transition will also see jobs lost in traditional industries as companies seek to evolve to become greener and more sustainable.

While the green economy promises new roles, without proper support for reskilling, many workers fear these shifts could leave them behind, rather than open new doors.

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Guiding workers through the green transition

Experience tells us that lower-skilled workers are far more likely to feel the threat than more-skilled workers, with many believing the advances in green technology, AI and the evolution of remote work means they have fewer opportunities, not more. Strong leadership and a practical roadmap to get people from here to there are needed to ensure people can see themselves in this transition and how they can build their skills and grow their income over time.

New ManpowerGroup research of over 5,000 workers in seven countries sheds light on how people feel about the greening of work - six key findings include:

1. White collar workers feel most optimistic about the green transition

While 70% of white-collar workers say they are ready to embrace the green transition, only 57% of their blue-collar peers say the same. In addition, one in four say they are unsure of how the green transition will impact them.

2. Green credentials matter to candidates

62% of all workers say they research an organization’s environmental reputation and one in three say it impacts their decision to accept or reject a job offer. For 18-24 year olds, 75% say they will research an organization’s environmental reputation and almost half believe it will impact their likelihood of choosing a particular employer.

3. The focus on pledges versus progress leads to half of workers doubting their employer's commitment to the green transition

While many workers are ready for the green transition (66%), only half believe their employers are fully committed.

4. One in three workers anticipate the green transition will result in increased challenges in their day-to-day work

Many also believed it would create new opportunities, such as increased job satisfaction, opportunities for career development and more collaboration, provided they have the necessary skills. 23% of workers overall believe green jobs should be better paid, yet only 6% say it is currently the norm.

5. There is a generation divide

Gen Z and Millennials lead the charge on the optimistic outlook: 71% of Gen Z and 60% of Millennials believe the green transition will enhance their work life. The prospect of new career opportunities is a major draw, with 35% of Gen Z and 34% of Millennials seeing it as a significant perk.

6. Workers believe green jobs deserve better pay

Younger workers are also more insistent that green jobs carry special value. A third (32%) of Gen Z advocate for higher pay in green jobs, highlighting a stark contrast with the 14% of Baby Boomers who share the sentiment.

Adapting existing roles to match new needs

The impact of the green transition will be more focused on the greening of existing jobs versus entirely new jobs. Workers know this – when we asked them the most critical green skills, most cited an awareness of how the green transition would impact their existing role.

Manpower Group
Image: Manpower Group

Practical solutions to reskilling and upskilling

Investing in upskilling and reskilling to bring people along is imperative to addressing the climate crisis in a way that works for people and planet.

Achieving the green transition depends on creating a path to green for the many, not the few. Our partnership with the InnoEnergy Skills Institute provides flexible training for jobs in renewable energy, electrification, battery technology and hydrogen, all delivered via easy access fast-track courses and a combination of virtual and in-person lab experiences. All of these resources are accessible in more than ten languages and enable career changers to reskill and certify for green jobs, as well as provide new entrants with the skills necessary to embark on green energy careers.

At the Annual Meeting in Davos this week leaders have a great opportunity to leverage our collective impact and bring greater prominence to the people/skills aspect of the green transition, which will be central to its success.

We cannot achieve ambitious goals without ensuring companies have access to the skills they need and people can see the opportunity this creates for them, their families and their communities. Though the window for action is narrowing, people remain our greatest asset to emerge on the right side of climate change history.

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Related topics:
Jobs and the Future of WorkNature and BiodiversityForum Institutional
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