Growing green skills

Technician Engineer in uniform and holding orange safety helmet with standing and checking wind turbine power farm Power Generator Station.

The global workforce needs to make a rapid shift to meet the needs of a decarbonizing economy, according to a new report from LinkedIn. The report put particular emphasis on green skills, defined as ones that “enable the environmental sustainability of economic activities.” Green skills are often attributed to wind turbine technicians or solar panel installers; to roles that fit squarely within the green jobs category, but Sue Duke, head of LinkedIn’s Economic Graph says, “every job is a green job.”

Over the past five years, the number of renewables and environment jobs in the US increased by 237% compared to oil and gas jobs at 19%. At that pace, renewables will overtake fossil fuels in total jobs on the LinkedIn platform by next year. And some of the fastest-growing green skills on LinkedIn “suggest the emergence of new trends,” like sustainable fashion and sustainable business strategies. Worldwide, green workers were hired at a higher rate than non-green workers, including through the pandemic.

The report’s findings also show the demand for green skills is outpacing supply, and a shortage is anticipated within the decade if things don't change. Post-COVID, many people are changing occupations as work itself is reconsidered, but they aren’t necessarily moving from a non-green job into a green one. However, those making the green job transition are still facing the same inequalities of past labor markets. Men and people with higher education degrees are developing green skills faster, emphasizing the need for a just labor transition.

Why This Matters

Plenty of jobs that aren’t in the renewable energy sector still require green skills, and how climate change is reshaping how we live will also require the labor market to change. For example, agriculture specialists need to understand how climate change will impact their crops; urban planners need to understand sustainable design; and plumbing engineers need to understand energy efficiency. Meanwhile, policymakers and business leaders have an opportunity to align the job market with the massive economic transformation necessary to hit climate targets.

“We need to move beyond our traditional view of green jobs as niche and reimagine all jobs playing their part in the green transition,” writes former New Jersey Gov. Christine Whitman and Sue Duke in a joint op-ed about the report for The Hill.

The Data

The report is based on the dataset of LinkedIn users, which offers a global look at self-reported job data from the platform’s 774+ million members. However, that means the data is also “influenced by how members choose to use the platform, which can vary based on professional, social and regional culture, as well as overall site availability and accessibility,” the report explains. Still, the report indicates a clear need to advance climate-forward policies, including pathways for workers to train in green sectors.