Need for green know-how soars but finance expertise 'will falter'

19th March 2010 at 00:00
Environment roles are booming, says skills body, while more traditional job markets are likely to decline

Conservation and the environment has been the fastest growing job market in the UK, according to a report intended to identify Britain's skills and training needs.

Since 2001, the number of conservation workers and environmental protection officers, usually requiring qualifications at level 4, has more than doubled, according to the first skills audit by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills' (UKCES).

The audit is intended to be an ongoing attempt to quantify where Britain's expertise needs lie and to predict future trends.

It also found that paramedics, legal assistants, refuse and recycling workers, and leisure and theme park attendants had doubled in number over the same period.

Electrical product or vehicle assemblers, typists, bookbinders and credit agents had seen large falls in the number of jobs, of between 58 and 69 per cent.

The commission found that the UK was increasing the skills of its workforce faster than ever, and its skills gap is about average compared with other advanced industrial nations. But it said that the demand for high skills was not increasing as quickly as other countries, with supply growing six times faster than demand.

Encouraging employers to make use of higher skills was one priority, along with ensuring that skills supply is targeted on areas of economic growth.

Chris Humphries, chief executive of UKCES, said: "Despite having a more skilled workforce than at any time in our history, we still lag behind many of our major economic competitors.

"In order to catch up, skills investment needs to connect more to the jobs that need doing now and that will need doing in the future."

Using economic models to predict future growth, the report's projections indicated that agriculture and engineering would both lose more than 100,000 jobs over the 10 years from 2007 to 2017.

The findings challenge Government efforts to encourage engineering as a career, although report co-author Lesley Giles suggested that high-skilled engineers could still be valuable to the economy even as overall numbers in the industry fell.

Health and social work, hotels and catering and retail distribution were expected to be the big growth industries.

The commission also predicted that financial services would decline in importance for the UK. The industry is currently ranked first for economic importance but the commission predicted it will fall to fifth place. Replacing it will be telecommunications, computing, business services and renting and real estate, according to the commission's economic modelling.

Sir Mike Rake, chair of the commission and of BT, said: "Tomorrow's jobs are not the same as today's and we would be failing in our collective responsibility if we didn't look to see what's coming down the line and prepare ourselves to meet it."

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