Every company wants ‘green-skilled’ workers–but nobody seems to know what that means

We are entering the era of green skills, but what are they, anyway? Companies say that green talent, or workers with experience in a climate-related job, are increasingly in demand, which is growing across all sectors and countries. 

The number of employers looking for these skills has grown, too. According to a LinkedIn report, between 2022 and 2023, job postings that require at least one green skill have grown by a median of 22%. 

Employers are looking for workers who are trained in green skills, or those that people learn in climate-related jobs or green technology, more than ever–yet only one in eight workers have them. In today’s job climate, workers with green skills are getting hired at higher rates and are entering sectors ranging from electric vehicles, oil and gas, and finance. A workforce trained in green skills is important because of how dire the planet’s global warming has become—with intense storms, rising sea levels, and heat waves, and drought just some of the disasters that’s befallen people—and it’s getting worse. 

A green skill-trained workforce can “accelerate the transition to a green economy,” the LinkedIn analysis wrote, and help integrate climate-informed policies. 

In the last five years, jobs that require green skills grew by over 9% while the share of skilled workers only grew by 5.4%. The number of workers who listed a green job or skill on LinkedIn, the report found, has grown in every one of the 48 countries included in the study, like Mexico, India and France. The report also found workers with green skills have been hired for new jobs at higher rates than those without in each country studied. Between 2022 and 2023, the prevalence of green talent in the workforce rose by a median of 12%, but still, the demand for skills is outpacing the supply. The number of job postings requiring at least one green skill grew twice as quickly. 

Sarah Strachan, a professor who teaches sustainability in the UK, told Fortune that “at the simplest level it’s a case of supply and demand,” and that her research “shows that the skills market is increasingly global.” 

“There is an urgent need to upskill the current workforce,” she said.

As it turns out, workers with green skills are pivotal to sectors that are the most carbon-intensive or create the most greenhouse gas emissions, like energy production, transportation and finance–because they’ll be leading the change. 

The skills in most demand, Strachan said, are “likely to be ‘soft’ transferable skills rather than ‘hard’ technical skills.” The higher demand for soft skills represents a transition from “knowledge-based skills,” to “attitude-based skills,” that companies can depend on to further their climate-informed progression.   

Green skills could improve the renewable energy sector, the largest source of emissions in the globe

Energy production, like electricity and heat, is the largest source of carbon emissions in the world, followed by transportation and construction–and the majority of the world’s electricity is still produced from fossil fuels. 

The demand for global energy is projected to grow 47% by 2050, and renewable energy sources like wind and solar continue to rise in markets like China, Germany and India. 

In the industry, employers are finding workers with skills in solar energy, nuclear electric power generation and water supply and irrigation systems more attractive than those who lack them. The LinkedIn report found employment of green-skilled workers in the renewable energy industry also grew in every country studied, and that for every 100 workers who left the sector, 120 workers joined. Since 2016, the concentration of skilled workers in the oil and gas industry has increased by 21%.

The shift to cleaner energy is still, well, shifting. In some countries, like Australia and the United Arab Emirates, more workers are entering the fossil fuel industry than exiting it, the report found. In others, like the U.S, Germany, Singapore and France, more workers are leaving the fossil fuel industry than entering–but it’s a decelerating decline. 

Finance is “greening faster” than other industries

The finance industry is “greening faster than most industries,” according to the report, which found a nearly 15% year-over-year increase of green talent workers in the sector. Some of the fastest growing green skills in the U.S include carbon accounting, or calculating an organization’s greenhouse gas emissions, and skills in drinking water quality, energy engineering, carbon credits and emissions, and energy audits. 

The influential industry is “a critical enabler of the transformation” needed to fight climate change, as a platform for conversations on how to support climate entrepreneurs with access to capital, encourage climate-friendly investment and incentivise financial institutions to deploy more capital towards climate change. 

The transition to a cleaner energy economy

The transition to a greener economy is in motion. The U.S Inflation Reduction Act is one of many plans, like Canada’s Sustainable Jobs Plan and the European Green Deal, that allocate funding towards creating jobs focused on combating climate change–the American plan, signed into law in August 2022, has created more than 170,000 clean energy jobs already. According to BlueGreen Alliance, an organization that unites labor unions and environmental groups, the act will create 9 million jobs by 2032. 

The next needed steps for a transition include changing job roles themselves. To require a greater emphasis on sustainability, the report found, “the jobs themselves” must “evolve” to include more climate-focused responsibilities, like policy advising or managing facilities. 

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