Finding jobs in green industries: results

The Open Jobs Observatory was created by Nesta, in partnership with the Department for Education. In our previous article we described how we identified jobs in green industries. This second article compares green job definitions, presents preliminary results from applying our methodology, and discusses the current policy climate surrounding the transition to a green economy.

Introduction

In parallel with government intervention to stimulate the green economy, we have developed one of the first open methodologies of automatically identifying green job advertisements. This effort has come during a time of busy policy action: the UK Government has recently committed to creating and supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs in green industries, in a new Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution report[1]. They have also created a Green Jobs Taskforce[2] to facilitate this goal, who have recently published their first report[3].

While there has been considerable effort to generate additional jobs in green industries, these efforts have remained at a high level and have not provided the granular definitions that are needed to track and facilitate the green transition. Rich and detailed information on green jobs, such as common job titles and dense green job locations, are necessary to facilitate the transition to a greener labour market. Our methodology for identifying job advertisements as ‘green’ begins to address this lack of tangibility.

This article is the second in a series that explores jobs in green industries. The first article walked through our methodology for automatically detecting adverts in these industries. This second article has three aims:

i) To examine and clarify the definition of jobs in green industries;

ii) To present preliminary results from applying our methodology;

iii) To propose further developments in our methodology, in alignment with the recommendations of the Green Jobs Taskforce.

What are green jobs?

While initiatives to generate jobs in green industries are rife, there is little consensus on how these jobs are defined. A number of national and international organisations, from the United Nation’s System of Environmental Economic Accounting to the UK’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, have developed their own definitions. While there is considerable overlap, jobs in green industries differ definitionally based on whether a) labour conditions, b) individual action or c) certain sectors should be considered (see Fig. 1 for further definitional comparisons). For example, the International Labour Organization (ILO) states that jobs in green industries must also be ‘decent’[4]. However, this isn’t a consideration for other organisations. In addition to a lack of institutional consensus, these definitions are not granular enough to confidently infer green job titles or occupations.

Definitional differences for jobs in green industries

Fig. 1: Definitional differences for jobs in green industries

To date, two definitions of ‘green sectors’ in the UK have been used to estimate the total number of full-time equivalent jobs in green industries: the Environmental Goods and Services sector (EGSS)[5] and the Low Carbon and Renewable Energy Economy (LCREE)[6]. The EGSS consists of areas of the economy engaged in producing goods and services for environmental protection purposes, as well as those engaged in conserving and maintaining natural resources. Meanwhile, the LCREE describes businesses that deliver goods and services that are likely to help the UK to generate lower emissions of greenhouse gases, predominantly carbon dioxide.

While the ONS have published estimates on the number of full-time equivalent jobs in each EGSS and LCREE sector, they do not identify the job titles that sit within these sectors, and there is currently no data on vacancies in green industries. We take the first step to addressing this data gap.

A high level summary of our methodology

At the highest level, we took a supervised machine learning approach to identifying job adverts in green industries. This meant that we manually labelled a sample of job adverts as either green or not green and trained a classifier to label unseen job adverts as belonging to either of these categories.

We chose to operationalise the United Nations System of Environmental Accounting’s definition of jobs in green industries: the Environmental Goods and Services sector (EGSS)[7]. The EGSS includes 17 different activities[8] including (but not limited to): wastewater management, recycling, forest management and environmental consulting. We identified a mix of critical jobs (e.g. a renewable energy engineer) and general jobs (e.g. an accountant for a green energy company) within these sectors.

The dataset of job adverts used in this article comes from Nesta’s Open Jobs Observatory, which was created in partnership with the Department for Education. The Observatory provides free insights on the skills mentioned in UK job adverts. We began collecting online job adverts in January 2021 and the Observatory now contains several million adverts. Ultimately, our methodology (when applied to the last three months of adverts collected) estimated that 3% of the job adverts were for positions in green industries. To learn about our methodology in greater detail, please refer to the first article in our mini series.

Jobs in green industries analysis

Our analysis focused on three questions:

  1. What are the most common job titles amongst online vacancies in green industries?
  2. How are online vacancies in green industries distributed across the UK?
  3. What salary ranges are being offered for online job vacancies in green industries?

Common Job Titles

After we identified job adverts in green industries, we clustered their job titles to identify common groups. We labelled the clusters using top Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency (TF-IDF) terms: TF-IDF[9] is a common information retrieval technique that weighs the frequency of a word (or term) against the inverse document frequency. The chart below shows these clusters of common job titles and their associated labels.

Fig. 2: Clustered Job Titles in Green Industries

Fig. 2: Clustered Job Titles in Green Industries

Examples of common job titles in different clusters include:

Geo Environmental

Typical job titles within this cluster include:

  1. Geoenvironmental consultant
  2. Environmental Geoscientist
  3. Geo Technical Engineer for Offshore/Renewables
  4. Head of Sales, Geotechnical Monitoring and Surveying
  5. Utilities Surveyor - Geotechnical

These types of jobs in green industries appear to align well with the EGSS activity, Environmental Consultancy and Engineering.

Solar PV

Common job titles within this cluster include:

  1. Roofer - Solar, Solar Panel Installer
  2. Project Manager - Solar, Electrician with Solar Experience
  3. Key Account Manager Solar PV
  4. Electrical Design Engineer solar
  5. Solar Panel Cleaning Technician

These types of jobs could align well with the EGSS activity, ​​Energy Saving and Sustainable Systems.

Software Developer

Examples of job titles within this cluster include:

  1. Junior Python Developer - Tech 4 Good, Sustainability
  2. Senior Front-end JavaScript developer - AI start-up
  3. Mobile Developer Tech for Good Remote
  4. Lead React Native Developer - Sustainability
  5. Lead Developer - GreenTech, Remote

Upon closer qualitative inspection of the job descriptions within this cluster, the engineering jobs were primarily at tech companies working in the field of climate change. These types of roles also appear to align well with the EGSS activity, Environmental Consultancy and Engineering.

Recycling Operative

Typical job titles within this cluster include:

  1. Recycling Operative part time
  2. Waste Management Porter/Driver
  3. Production Manager Waste / Recycling
  4. Night Recycling Operative
  5. Waste Collection Loader

These types of roles appear to align well with a number of different EGSS activities, including Waste and Recycling.

In addition to explicitly green job title clusters, other clusters represent non-green jobs in other green industries. For example:

Management Accountant

Typical job titles within this cluster include:

  1. Senior group accountant
  2. Management accountant
  3. Budget Accountant
  4. Digital Projects Controller Accountant
  5. Part Time Company Accountant

Upon closer inspection of job descriptions associated with the above job titles, the roles were for companies in green tech, at utilities and distribution companies and for renewable energy organisations.

Account Manager

Typical job titles within this cluster include:

  1. Junior National Account Manager
  2. Account Manager Utilities
  3. Accounts Clerk
  4. Invoice Clerk
  5. Customer Services

These roles appeared to be at companies such as those associated with the disposal of metal and end-of-life vehicles, sustainability fintech firms, an organisation providing civil, structural, environmental and survey services and firms in water management.

Both ‘critical’ jobs and otherwise general jobs in green industries will be important as the UK economy makes the green transition.

Common Job Locations

We were also able to explore the locations of jobs in green industries using our enrichment algorithm that assigned NUTS 2 codes to roles[10]. NUTS refers to the Nomenclature of territorial units for statistics and is a geographical nomenclature that subdivides the UK and the EU. Regions with the highest number of jobs in green industries include: The Scottish Highlands and Islands, Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, Tees Valley and Durham and Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Bristol/Bath area.

Bar chart showing job adverts in green Industries as a proportion of all job adverts per NUTS2 code

Fig. 3: Job adverts in green Industries as a proportion of all job adverts per NUTS2 code

Many roles in Scotland appear to be related to the water industry. Meanwhile, many of those in Devon and Cornwall appear to be linked to large organisations in waste, waste-based biodiesel and renewables including: SUEZ in Devon, South West Water in the West Country and the Greenergy Tank Farm in Plymouth. There is room for methodological development to gather more granular insight into the types of roles that occur most frequently in each region.

Salaries

Finally, we explored the advertised salaries for jobs in green industries. It is important to note that many job adverts do not specify a salary. As a result, the salary ranges extracted may not be representative of salaries associated with these roles.

Salary ranges contain minimum and maximum offers, and our analysis suggests that the median of the minimum salary offers for jobs in green industries is slightly higher than for those in non-green industries (£30,000 for jobs in green industries vs. £25,000 for jobs in non-green industries). Meanwhile, the median of the maximum salary offered for jobs in green industries is also slightly higher than for those in non-green industries (£35,000 for jobs in green industries vs. £30,000 for jobs in non-green industries). We cannot say that these differences are significant, but they may be due to green industries consisting of relatively more high-skilled roles.

As we continue to collect adverts in the Observatory, we will monitor the changing nature of jobs in green industries, including their salary ranges. This is particularly important as the Government’s plan to create more jobs in green industries unfolds, with promised heavy investment in the green economy and the accelerated generation of roles still to come.

Jobs in green industries: future development

There are a number of directions in which to refine and expand our identifications of jobs in green industries. These include a) capturing multiple definitions of jobs in green industries, b) identifying green specific skills and c) including a consideration for the current emission levels of the industries in which these jobs are based.

As described, there are a number of different green job definitions. In this case we operationalised the EGSS definition. However, we could instead operationalise the LCREE definition, or think about ways of capturing the ‘decency’ of jobs in green industries (to suit the ILO definition), perhaps by using salaries or descriptions of job benefits as a proxy. Similarly, we could operationalise the definition of green jobs put forth by the Green Job’s Taskforce, by focusing on jobs within prioritised sectors which are crucial to meeting the UK’s net zero emissions target by 2050, such as power, homes and buildings, which enable decarbonisation and climate adaptation.

Secondly, as we have recently developed an algorithm to extract skills from job advert descriptions, we could identify ‘neighbouring jobs’ that are not labelled ‘green’ but require many of the same skills as jobs in green industries. This would align well with the Green Jobs Taskforce’s report on building pathways into high quality green careers. As the report states, “many of the skills required for the net zero transition...are not unique to green roles”[11] (page 26). Finally, we could enrich our definition of jobs in green industries by also considering the current emission levels of the sectors in which these jobs reside. This would allow us to build on the work of our colleagues’ Going Green report[12] in which they distinguish between jobs in ‘Leader’ and ‘Follower’ industries; both have high levels of environmental activities (such as green jobs), but the latter have higher emission levels and are thus ‘following’ the leaders[13]. This distinction would serve to nuance the definition of jobs in green industries. It would also allow us to track the pace of the green transition in high carbon sectors.

Conclusions

The aims of this work have been two-fold: to demonstrate the types of analysis that are possible using data collected via the Open Jobs Observatory, and to start exploring the green economy via data science methodologies. Click here to read more about our methodology for detecting jobs in green industries.

Footnotes

[1]HM Government, The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, 2020, London, UK.

[2]HM Government, Green Jobs Taskforce, 2020, London, UK.

[3]HM Government, Green Jobs Taskforce: Report to Government, Industry and the Skills Sector, 2020, London, UK.

[4]Leah Harris, “The Challenges of Defining a Green Job,” Office for National Statistics, 07 April 2021,

[5]Office for National Statistics, UK Environmental Goods and Services Sector (EGSS) Methodology Annex, (ONS: 2021)

[6]Office for National Statistics, Low Carbon and Renewable Energy Economy, (ONS: 2021)

[7]Office for National Statistics, UK Environmental Goods and Services Sector (EGSS) Methodology Annex, (ONS: 2021)

[8]Office for National Statistics, UK Environmental Goods and Services Sector (EGSS) Methodology Annex, (ONS: 2021)

[9]Wikipedia, “tf-idf,” Wikipedia,

[10]The NUTS 2 areas in London have been merged, as job adverts tend not to be geographically specific within London.

[11]HM Government, Green Jobs Taskforce: Report to Government, Industry and the Skills Sector, 2020, London, UK, pg. 26.

[12]Nesta, Going Green, 2020, London, UK, pg. 15.

[13]Nesta, Going Green, 2020, London, UK, pg. 1.

Author

India Kerle

India Kerle

India Kerle

Junior Data Scientist, Data Analytics Practice

India is a Junior Data Scientist in the Data Analytics Practice.

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Cath Sleeman

Cath Sleeman

Cath Sleeman

Head of Data Discovery, Data Analytics Practice

Dr Cath Sleeman is the Head of Data Discovery.

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