GAS SECTOR workers who could be affected by job losses in the transition to a net zero world can switch to other careers with the right kind of support from the government.

However, a report from the Instsitute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) warns against complacency and argues that without careful planning, the transition may jeopardise meeting net zero targets or lead to disruption in the workforce.

While decarbonisation efforts might prompt more workers to switch roles, the report suggests that they can readily transition to many “climate compatible” occupations that do not contribute to carbon emissions.

Workers from various branches of the gas industry, such as oil and gas production, gas power stations, gas networks and boilermaking, will need to transition into new jobs as the UK moves to net zero. According to IPPR’s analysis, with the right support by government the transition could result in minimal career disruptions for them.

The report looks at ‘green occupations’ (those specific to green industries) and ‘blue occupations’ (climate compatible occupations that are not specific to green industries but do not entail high carbon emissions). It finds:

  • 93 per cent of the approximately 115,000 people working in these gas sectors share more than 50 per cent of their existing work tasks – such as inspecting and repairing equipment – with green or blue occupations.
  • If gas sector workers were only moving into green jobs such as solar PV installers, (non-gas) energy plant managers and environmental scientists, many would likely need more significant retraining and other support.
  • However, the transition would be much less challenging if they moved to some climate compatible blue occupations such as surveyors, materials engineers, and construction workers.

It highlights two main challenges to delivering a fair transition for workers in the gas sector. First, the slow transition to cleaner energy risks limiting career options and could lead to abrupt disruptions in employment. Second, current government policies do not commit enough support to affected workers, regardless of how similar their future career options may be, including a failure to involve trade unions and inadequate training and career guidance.

The government’s current plans to support workers have been “piecemeal” at best, the report says. It identifies a need to shift away from abstract rhetoric and concentrate on offering practical career paths for those who might need to switch jobs, along with tailored support for skills training they would need.

To deliver a genuinely fair transition, IPPR calls on the government to:

  • Reform the skills system by introducing an annual £1.1 billion Green Training.Fund to provide free training to workers in gas sectors (and other industries that are decarbonising) who may need to change occupations.
  • Provide certainty both to industry and workers by clarifying the role of gas capacity in the future energy mix.
  • Adopt a fair transition approach involving workers and their unions, committing to give workers career guidance, training and retraining, and ensure industries commit to high quality job standards.

Joshua Emden, IPPR Senior Research Fellow, said: “Our analysis offers some reassurance that the transition to net zero need not be as disruptive as some people suggest. However, government complacency and the inadequacy of current commitments put a fair and orderly transition at risk.

“Even if future career options require similar skills to current roles, workforce planning that supports workers with retraining, offers careers advice and commits to decent working standards is essential to delivering a genuinely fair transition.”

* Read: Skills matter: Shaping a just transition for workers in the energy sector here.

* Source: Institute for Public Policy Research