Green jobs” are defined as “jobs that reduce the environmental impact of enterprises and economic sectors, ultimately to levels that are sustainable” (UNEP/ILO/IOE/ITUC, 2008). The broadness of this definition means that – potentially – almost every job can become greener.

Indeed, boundaries between “green” and “non-greenjobs are already becoming blurred.

For instance, in some countries “energy auditor” is viewed as a new, green job; in others, it is seen as a shift of competences for an existing profession: auditor. This blurring will intensify as more economic spheres improve their resource efficiency.


green economy affects skills in different ways, and relevant “green skills” already can be found in existing, traditional occupations.

For example, it can lead to “green restructuring” – the process by which traditional industries faced with declining markets re-orient their production processes and workflows to target markets driven by environmental priorities.

High carbon-emitting sectors – such as the extractive and automotive industries, shipbuilding, fossil fuel-based energy generation, manufacturing, forestry and agriculture – will be most heavily impacted by green structural change.


New job opportunities will arise in industries that are expected to grow as economies go green (including renewable energies, green building and waste management).

Workers moving from declining “high carbon” jobs into growing green sectors will require re-training; thus, the role of employment services in matching skills to jobs and in providing training will be crucial.

The greening of agriculture will have enormous implications in terms of jobs. Farmers will have to acquire new techniques to adjust to more severe droughts or adopt farming practices that help mitigate climate change. They also will have to learn how to work with Natura 2000 network sites and learn about labelling schemes and certifications.


Training programs are needed at all levels of education to enable people working in agriculture to use their existing competences as a foundation for developing green skills.

The extent of re-skilling required in other sectors can vary considerably. In some cases, an occupation can be greened without any re-training at all – e.g. a bus driver is a bus driver, whatever fuel the bus runs on – but in most instances, it will be necessary to build upon existing competences as the job profile for emerging green occupations alters.

For example, within the automotive industry, the introduction of new, fuel-efficient technologies means that workers at all levels require training for this aspect of the job.


It is important to emphasise that the skills of workers in declining occupations will not necessarily be obsolete. In many cases, with some additional training, they can be put to good use in the resource-efficient occupations of the green economy.

In other areas, the challenge is more the volume of workers involved than the amount of re-skilling needed: this is particularly evident in the construction sector, where the creation of energy-efficient buildings will require large numbers of people to upgrade their skills.

Greening occupations is thus about adding to, or subtracting from, existing competences.


Market innovations and new products will require the same type of management, design, planning and leadership skills as existing roles. New processes will require new technological know-how; other green skills are linked to understanding and being able to implement environmental legislation and regulation.

Some sectors are more affected by the green economy than others, but all sectors will require a certain level of environmental competence and skills.

A good example would be the local authority officers who are becoming more and more specialized in the nuances of environmental action in order to regulate areas from waste management to water to forestry.


What could be the best way forward?


Many countries are integrating environmental issues into their development and growth strategies. However, as yet only one EU Member State (France) has adopted a national plan for the mobilization of green jobs.

Policy-makers need to focus on and invest in programs aimed at retraining the workforce to ensure Europe lives up to its ambition of having 3 millionGreen Collar” workers by 2020. There is also an urgent need to anticipate future demand for green jobs.

As well as a general shortage of scientists and engineers, there are specific skills shortages in certain sectors (e.g. energy efficient buildings); and, a need to improve perceptions of the attractiveness of others, such as waste management.


It is important to mainstream the environmental aspects of occupation throughout the education and training matrix. This includes vocational education and training (VET) providers improving links with companies to make green industries an attractive end-destination for highly-skilled students.

The shortage of teachers and trainers in environmental-awareness subjects and in fast-growing green sectors (such as renewable energy) also needs to be addressed.

For the transition to a green economy to happen, the European Union needs to invest in a skilled and trained workforce that can inspire and encourage investment, technical innovation, economic diversification and job creation.


Information Source: European Commission, DG Environment.


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