What are green jobs?
The professions directly linked to the environment and the circular economy are destined to acquire an increasingly important position among the jobs of the future in the wake of an acceleration that is already underway in Italy. According to the annual GreenItaly Report 2021, which was compiled by the Fondazione Symbola in collaboration with Unioncamere, in the five-year period from 2016 to 2020 more than 441,000 companies decided to invest in green technologies and products (21.4% of the total number). Furthermore, the report forecast that in the period 2021-2025 a substantial 38% of professions would require important green skills (amounting to a total of between 1.3 and 1.4 million jobs).
But what are green jobs exactly, and what will they be in the future? The International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations agency specialized in the promotion of social justice and human rights with a particular focus on the world of work, has come up with a precise definition.
According to the ILO, green jobs are the professions that “contribute to preserving or restoring the environment, both in traditional sectors such as manufacturing and construction, as well as those in new emerging green sectors like renewable energies and energy efficiency.” This general definition leaves space for a large number of potential green jobs. Let’s take a closer look at which ones.
The criteria for the definition of a green job
Based on the indications of the ILO, green jobs should contribute to achieving five fundamental goals: improving energy efficiency and the use of raw materials, limiting greenhouse gas emissions, reducing pollution and waste as much as possible, protecting and restoring ecosystems and, finally, supporting the changes necessary to respond to the effects of climate change. Moreover, while many businesses are working with the ultimate aim of producing goods or services that are beneficial to the environment (for example, eco-friendly buildings or sustainable forms of transport), often the production processes and technologies they rely on are anything but “green.” Therefore green jobs, in order to be defined as such, must contribute to making the entire production chain more eco-friendly, for example, by reducing water consumption, improving the disposal of waste and so on.
The green jobs of the future will not only be for manual workers or specialized technicians: there will also be room for managers who are capable of enhancing resources and projects focused on sustainability and protecting the environment. The GreenItaly Report identifies the following professions as those involving the greatest development of green skills:
- green builder
- ecological brand sales director
- repair specialist for machines and systems
- installer of efficient electricity networks
- environmental IT specialist
- expert in environmental marketing
- energy management expert
- environmental quality certification officer
- installer of low-environmental impact air-conditioning systems.
But which specific skills will be required?
Working in the green economy
The jobs required in the green sector cover a broad spectrum of training and skills that are evolving both constantly and rapidly. For example, digital skills will play an essential role: the green economy can no longer ignore the new frontiers of innovation that will range from automation and sensor technology to artificial intelligence, augmented reality and the Internet of Things, to name just a few. These are now key components both in construction and in monitoring facilities for producing clean energy (for instance, photovoltaic plants), as well as for data analysis concerning agriculture and the environment, which require input from IT experts and data scientists.
However, technological skills are by no means the only important aspect of green jobs. Another key area is economics and finance. A large number of companies will need project management consultants that are capable not only of promoting the use of green financial products (think, for example, of green bonds), but also of ensuring the most efficient use of resources, minimizing the impact on the environment. Specific legal roles will also be necessary, as will those concerning a field that is becoming increasingly central nowadays – that of food and nutrition. On this front, roles such as that of the sustainable chef, who focuses on sourcing produce and making the best possible use of it, will be very important in the future.
Another essential sector that already includes numerous green jobs is naturally that of sustainable mobility. Here too, the input from new professionals won’t be limited to the technology side, which aims to reduce emissions and design more efficient energy systems. At the same time, it will be necessary encourage the public to adopt lifestyles that are healthier and more sustainable, a goal that will also require educators and communications experts.
Our Group is looking for talents
As a global leader in renewable energies, our Group is at the forefront of the green jobs market. We are also promoting training and refresher courses for those who already work with us as we head in a direction that is increasingly combining sustainability with technological innovation.
In opening up to the country and the communities where we are present, we have launched various training pathways that aim to educate young people about green jobs and promote access to the job market in the field of sustainability. These pathways include the Energy for Growth program in collaboration with the ELIS training center, which over the two-year period from 2022 to 2023 will be selecting and training 5,500 young people from all over Italy. They can then be hired by companies that work with the Group on the development of electricity grid infrastructure, which is a crucial sector for the energy transition. The School4Life project, which was also created in partnership with ELIS, involves 800 students from 25 Italian schools and aims to guide them towards the jobs of the future, while helping reduce school dropout rates.
The future, the opportunities of the PNRR
Naturally, the ecological transition underway is not without obstacles. Indeed, the GreenItaly Report also presented the results of a recent survey conducted on industrial and tertiary businesses, which identified the main barriers to the introduction of green corporate investments as: excessive bureaucracy, limited information about public subsidies to support investments and their benefits, insufficient economic resources, but also (for 15.6% of the businesses contacted) difficulties in finding staff on the job market with the required green skills. This latter aspect confirms that there is still much to be done from the perspective of developing the skills required for the green jobs of the future.
Nevertheless, the coming years could be decisive. Paradoxically, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic (in addition to not having halted green investments) should produce a rapid acceleration in the number of green jobs, thanks to the creation of the Next Generation EU fund and the resulting National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR). The second of the PNRR’s six missions focuses on the green revolution and the ecological transition (for a total of 59.47 billion euros), while the third concerns infrastructure for sustainable mobility (25.4 billion euros). If used wisely, these resources have the potential to provide a meaningful boost for the complete development of the green economy, offering numerous new job opportunities at the same time. The consequences will certainly favor the environment and sustainability, but they can also increase national productivity and GDP. Such an important opportunity, therefore, must not be wasted.