Delegates at the UCU annual Congress in Manchester today called on the new coalition government to close the environmental skills gap in the UK or risk shattering any chance of a low carbon economy.The Congress also heard that the country would miss out on lucrative contracts to deliver green programmes if it did not act fast to close the gap.
As part of a debate on the environment delegates heard from Angie Birtill from South Thames College who warned that the skills gap between what we know and what we need to know about the low carbon economy was one of the biggest obstacles to its successful delivery.
In December, 2009, it was claimed that government action meant that 500,000 jobs would be created around the clean energy sector. However, many of the projects being introduced are going to overseas firms because the skills and manufacturing base does not exist in the UK.
Delegates heard that the problem is being compounded by the cuts being imposed on the further and higher education sector. Because it is difficult for institutions to adapt their programmes to meet the green skills challenge at a time of such uncertainty.
Angie Birtill said:'There is a huge gap in knowledge and skills and what is needed to deliver a low carbon economy. The current UK workforce is not equipped to take advantage of the opportunities presented by any future growth in 'green jobs'. After all these years of talking about sustainable development policies it is nothing short of scandalous.'
Graham Petersen, UCU environment co-ordinator, said: 'If the UK is going to offer the hope of employment to 16-24 year olds this is not the time to cut back on budgets. There is huge potential to train apprentices in renewable energy skills, yet college construction departments are being cut back and staff threatened with redundancy.'
Full details of UCU Congress can be found at: UCU Congress 2010 This release covers motion 97.