Today’s post is by NAEE President and UCL London Professor, Justin Dillon. The views expressed are, as ever, not necessarily those of the Association.

Earlier this week I attended a roundtable in London hosted by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) and Core Cities UK. The topic was “Unlocking the Potential of UK Cities to create a ‘Greenprint’ for Future Jobs”. I was attending on behalf of NAEE. By way of background, EPI is an independent, impartial and evidence-based research institute that aims to promote high quality education outcomes for all children and young people, regardless of social background. Core Cities UK is an alliance of 11 cities – Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield. The organisation aims to unlock the full potential of these city regions to create a stronger, fairer economy and society.

The other panellists included senior figures from the Association of Colleges, the Liberal Democrat party, the Education and Training Foundation, the National Grid and WorldSkills UK. We had been given a set of questions to consider in advance, but these only formed a loose agenda for the 75-minute discussions.

Not surprisingly, given that we were looking at the role of cities in responding to the shift towards “green jobs”, we send a considerable amount of time discussing skills and training rather than the school curriculum. There is no one definition of a “green job”. Writing in an LSE blog, Juliana Oliveira Cunha (2022) provided a basic definition: “a green job can be defined as one that is aligned with or supportive of the low-carbon objective”. As economies around the world transition towards net-zero, huge numbers of workers in traditional industries are beginning to find their jobs are disappearing. In their place may come now jobs requiring different skills which might require higher level cognitive and interpersonal skills compared to non-green jobs (Consoli et al., 2016). 

The sheer scale of the change is akin to a new Industrial Revolution. Estimates suggest that in England alone, by 2030, there could be almost 700,000 green jobs in the low-carbon and renewable energy sector, rising to more than 1.18m by 2050. The Institute for Public Policy Research has suggested that, also by 2030, more than 200,000 jobs could be created in energy efficiency and that there might be 70,000 new jobs in offshore wind by the end of this year. These new jobs are not evenly spread geographically with London’s green jobs being mainly in finance, IT and the legal industries whereas in the north-west of England, new jobs focus on increasing wind capacity. That said, I stood on Margate seafront recently and gazed across at the London Array, a wind farm with 175 turbines, marvelling at the mental and physical effort that had gone into its design and construction. 

Discussions about the green jobs agenda in high-income countries such as the UK can obscure the role of small-scale technologies which can be transformative source of employment in developing economies (Acey & Culhane, 2012). The total number of jobs that might be created by changes in the way that we run our global economies might be incalculable. Indeed, one could argue that, in the future, all jobs will, in some way be green, as NAEE argued in a response to the House of Commons Environment Audit Committee (NAEE, 2021).

Of course, with every major change comes concomitant challenges. New jobs don’t always appear where old jobs have disappeared meaning that people find themselves uprooted from their homes, sometimes working a long way from their families. We are only just beginning to understand the impact on people’s mental health of the transition to green jobs. 

An issue for NAEE is how do we respond to this huge change in education and training. What projects might we be looking to support over the next decade? Those of us who have seen the impact of the digital revolution will be keen to ameliorate the negative aspects of the shift to greening the economy whilst wanting to support the positive aspects. The scale of the challenge cannot be over-estimated. 


Acey, C. S., & Culhane, T. H. (2013). Green jobs, livelihoods and the post-carbon economy in African cities. Local Environment18(9), 1046–1065.

Consoli, D., Marin, G., Marzucchi, A., & Vona, F. (2016). Do green jobs differ from non-green jobs in terms of skills and human capital? Research Policy45(5), 1046–1060.

Cunha, J. O. (2022). Front-lining green jobs in the sustainable urbanisation agenda.

NAEE. (2021)


Justin can be contacted at:

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