Man fixes solar panels on roof
Only 30% of people had even heard of “green skills”. Image: Pexels

A report commissioned by UK energy provider OVO Energy has shown that fewer than one in ten people report getting any dedicated green skills training at work, which the company says is a major risk to the rollout of solar power and other green tech.

The research, conducted in collaboration with Energy and Utility Skills, revealed that only 7% of people receive green skills development, while less than one in three (30%) have even heard of “green skills.”

The report also highlighted the vastness of the green skills gap; 362,000 workers could be needed by 2035 to decarbonise homes alone. To combat this shortfall, OVO has announced that it will upskill 15,000 green roles, including advisors, surveyors, and installers.

Charlotte Eaton, chief people officer, OVO said: “People are at the centre of our mission at OVO, which is why we are committed to investing in our teams through learning and reskilling opportunities. Without significant investment in the green workforce, the UK risks losing its place as a world leader in net zero. We need more people to help us on our mission to install electric vehicle chargers, heat pumps, solar and insulate homes across the UK.”

“The green skills gap facing our country is one of the biggest challenges we’re facing as a country, and we can’t do it alone. Our ambitious plan is pioneering a new generation who have the opportunity to shape the green skilled industry for many years to come.”

The skills gap in solar

The UK solar industry is a major target of efforts to recruit and upskill green professionals. Skills are one of the four main focuses of the UK Solar Taskforce, which was established in 2023 to support the UK’s ambitions for 70GW of solar generation by 2035. The taskforce will look to improve diversity within the sector while ensuring wider awareness of employment and training opportunities within solar energy.

Speaking at an industry event in April, Mark Wakeford, chairman of both EvoEnergy and the Solar Taskforce’s “skills” group, called the workforce “the biggest issue with the solar sector,” adding, “The workforce numbers for the industry used to be difficult, but now professionalising the roles is. Professionals are needed to deliver a competent, quality product for the industry. For this, we need to get people qualified.

“We have quite a lot of work to do to identify qualifications and routes to qualifications for the industry.”

The green skills gap needs to close, fast

The green skills gap isn’t down to a lack of interest from the current or future workforce; OVO’s report reveals that one in five (21%) people have asked for green skills training at work on at least one occasion, with three in five (61%) recognising that developing green skills will benefit their future career.

Meanwhile, the need for green skills education is becoming clear in those entering the workforce, with 75% of those aged 25-34 wishing they’d been given more information about green skills when in education.

Last year, the MCS Charitable Foundation noted that “a huge influx” of 15-25-year-olds will need to enter the green workforce to meet renewable installation targets set for the 2030s, including around 60,000 people installing solar panels. The MCS report highlighted green apprenticeships as a key target for recruiting more young people into the industry, revealing that 57% of young people would be “more likely” to consider a renewable energy job if apprenticeships were available so they could earn and learn at the same time.

Solar Power Portal’s publisher Solar Media will host the UK Solar Summit on 4-5 June 2024 in London. The event will explore the UK’s new landscape for utility and rooftop solar, looking at the opportunities within a GW+ annual market, and much more. For more information, go to the website.