Ireland’s future competitiveness is inherently tied to our economic ability to decarbonise. In response to the targets set out in Ireland’s Climate Action Plan, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) ‘Skills for Zero Carbon’ Report identifies the core areas where Ireland needs to develop a skills base over the next ten years: renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable construction and transport.
Skillnet Ireland welcomes this report and is developing the talent to support the delivery of the Climate Action Plan in these key sectors, through our industry partners, Skillnet Business Networks including Green Tech Skillnet, Lean & Green Skillnet, SIMI Skillnet, Midlands, Border, East (MBE) Skillnet, CitA Skillnet, Construction Professionals Skillnet and our Skills Connect and Climate Ready initiatives.
To delve deeper into some of the areas of focus we spoke to our partners in Green Tech Skillnet, Lean & Green Skillnet and the Climate Ready Academy to learn about the talent development programmes and upskilling initiatives that are currently underway and planned for the future.
Developing a strong talent pipeline
Building a strong talent pool is an essential part of Ireland’s transition to a low carbon economy. Programmes by the Climate Ready Academy, the talent development arm of our Climate Ready initiative are focused on developing the leadership and management skills required to shape a business’s strategic direction. Ken Stockil, Network Promoter of Lean & Green Skillnet, highlights how this Network practical programmes such as their Energy Management Systems with SEAI, Sustainable Procurement with NSAI, Certified Water Stewards Programme with Irish Water and Lean for Sustainable Business with the University of Limerick, support businesses and complement the work of Skillnet Ireland’s Climate Ready Academy.
“These programmes are all action-oriented and practical in nature ensuring staff develop their skills while at the same time working on specific projects to help their businesses transition to a lower carbon operating model.” Ken Stockil, Network Promoter of Lean & Green Skillnet.
Green Tech Skillnet has provided essential renewable energy training to more than 3,700 participants over a range of professions including turbine technicians, high-voltage operators, PV and microgrid installers, policy and energy markets. In December 2020, they developed a Skills Connect programme to help unemployed people transition their careers to the renewable energy sector with 60 participants haven taken part to date. They have also designed three bespoke programmes addressing skills gaps in the workforce to meet the Climate Action Plan’s targets including Near Zero Energy Building design and BER Assessors certification, Wind Turbine Technicians and the Wind industry jobs (graduate level) programme.
The report highlights the need to examine embodied carbon and resource efficiency as part of a broader approach to the environmental impact of retrofit projects, as committed to in EU’s ‘Renovation Wave’ roadmap. As well as the more general skillset of carbon accounting, improving the skills of building professionals in Ireland should include environmental lifecycle assessment. To support businesses in this area, CITA Skillnet and Construction Professionals Skillnet run several talent development programmes in the areas of zero carbon, project management, people management, managing sustainable construction, BIM and communications.
There is also a growing need for alternative ways of supplying talent for zero carbon activities. Our Skills Connect initiative is facilitating the rapid reskilling of workers impacted by COVID-19 in areas of identified skills needs. This includes talent development in the zero carbon economy space, run through the MBE Skillnet in Domestic Heat Pump Systems, Micro Generator Electrical Installations and Micro Solar Photovoltaic Systems.
Focusing on the in-demand talent pathways
The report’s labour market analysis shows that supplying talent to the in-demand areas of engineering, environmental, planning and legal professionals specific to the zero-carbon niche, emerging specialist renewable energy occupations, electric vehicle (EV) technicians and craft and residential retrofit workers needs to be addressed in the coming decade to meet Ireland’s climate action goals.
Mark Ruane, Green Tech Skillnet Network Manager concurs, adding, “Some of the key in-demand pathways we are currently supporting include Solar, Wind and Heat Pump Technicians, Near Zero Energy Building, and BER assessment. We are currently collaborating with Dundalk IT to provide Heat Pump Installer Training, with a start date of 4th of February 2022”.
Ken Stockil explains that “Lean & Green Skillnet focuses specifically on addressing the need for a talent pathway in firms that can translate the strategic need for more sustainable operating models (including transitioning to a lower-carbon model) into actual practice”.
The jobs of the future
To progress the report’s key recommendations, it is essential to be proactive in preparing for the future talent and skills needs of the economy. The jobs and roles required to support the broader Climate Action Plan will continue to evolve in the coming years. Ken Stockil points out that “Over time there will be a greater realisation that every job is a green or climate job”. Across every sector and industry, there will be an increasing focus on soft skills as well as technical skills to ensure Ireland transitions successfully.
A growing area of future skills requirements in sustainable transport is emerging technologies. SIMI Skillnet supports talent development in the motor industry. Their ‘Hybrid and electric vehicle (EV) systems combined’ programme supports garage technicians requiring knowledge and skills on the safe repair of these vehicles, given that the operating systems are very different to traditional internal combustion engines (ICE). Currently, the talent demands for the short-to-medium terms are being met in the sector. However, to meet the long-term demand from EVs, a notable increase in EV technicians is required.
Critically, building awareness and management skills across all businesses in Ireland will help strengthen the transition and adoption of renewable energy sources. The EGFSN’s report shows that Ireland’s plan to decarbonise contains multiple moving parts that need to work in tandem to overcome barriers and gaps. As a strategic talent development agency, Skillnet Ireland is well-positioned to contribute significantly to this movement, supporting our economy to progress towards a circular economy model, increase in zero carbon activities, improved biodiversity policies and the integration of energy systems. All of which require a talent pool of specialists, industry-wide collaboration and EU policy alignment.
Skills Connect helps workers rapidly reskill and adapt to a changing business landscape. A number of Skillnet Business Networks are supporting businesses and workers in the area of green talent development visit the dedicated page on our website to learn more.
The EGFSN advises the Irish Government on the current and future skills needs of the economy and plays a central role in ensuring that labour market needs for skilled workers are anticipated and met. Learn more about their publications, research and analysis here.