Greener Skills for a Sustainable Workforce

Green education and training programmes play a crucial role in enabling businesses and employees to leverage emerging opportunities. Evidence from several countries shows that in sectors and occupations where green growth policies are encouraged, new skills, or new combinations of familiar skills, are driving the need for greener upskilling and reskilling strategies. The role of work-based learning (WBL) in these approaches is an opportunity for GAN Global and its members and partners to shape initiatives to close the skills gaps needed towards a sustainable future.

The latest publication by GAN Global Board Member, the Adecco Group was introduced – Training for Green Jobs, highlighting different training solutions developed in four countries, each promoting green skills and driving sustainable ways of working. We learned about policy recommendations for employers, governments and workers on adapting to the green transition. At this virtual event, we also examined the policy landscape in which the private sector examples are highlighted by bringing in expertise from GAN partners and networks.

“The Adecco Group has so far facilitated 7,000 apprenticeship contracts in the hydrogen sector where more than 100,000 jobs are expected in this field by 2030. To raise awareness on this sector, we launched our first digital learning module to train technical professionals and operators, targeting 26 cross-cutting jobs. This represents more than 1.6 million workers in France overall and within the Adecco Group almost 200,000 working already in these sectors.”
France Henry-Labordère, Senior Vice-President, Adecco Training and Inclusion, The Adecco Group

Transitioning to a green economy requires a workforce with the right skills. This includes skilling for the low carbon and environmental goods and services sector, as well as identifying the holistic skills needed to help all businesses use natural resources efficiently and sustainably. To help us better understand the green skills needed, we brought together the following business leaders and policymakers from our network:

  • Nazrene Mannie, GAN Global, Executive Director
  • France Henry-Labordère, Senior Vice-President, Adecco Training and Inclusion, The Adecco Group
  • Pelin Öztürk Yudu, International Relations Director, Turkish Confederation of Employer Associations (TISK)
  • Glenda Quintini, Senior Economist, the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
  • Frédérique Naulette, HR Director, Nestlé

The overall objectives of having this conversation were to highlight WBL solutions with emerging green technologies; showcase industries in GAN membership that are driving sustainable ways of working; raise awareness on the WBL strategies required to drive a European sustainability agenda; provide the policy landscape in which the private sector examples are highlighted through bringing in expertise from GAN partners and networks; and, advocate for effective partnerships that enable the implementation of green skills strategies.


Ms Mannie kicked off the discussion by providing a global context. She positioned climate change as one of the defining challenges of our time, increasingly recognized as a threat multiplier beyond the environmental scope, well into the social and societal spheres. A transition towards greener, more circular ways of living, working, and doing business is thus a vital – and urgent necessity to achieve the best possible outcomes for people and planet. 

The green economy is also enabling the fastest growing sectors, posing a huge opportunity to design WBL programmes that contribute to the SDGs.  As the green economy is one of the world’s fastest growing economic sectors, accelerated even further with technologies driving innovation, green skills are needed across multiple sectors. The workforce, therefore, must be equipped with tools to advance with the private sector and policymakers collaborating to ensure an inclusive and sustainable future of work.

Changing Skills Demand in Digital and Green Economies and Societies – Learnings from The Adecco Group

Ms Henry-Labordère set the context by outlining the emerging trends and challenges as identified by recent publications from the Adecco Group (Skills for the Green Economy, 2021 and Training for Green Jobs, 2022). The first publication shares the type of work that necessitates green skills and green jobs, providing the context on green skills for the economy and green transition, focusing on the energy and automotive sectors. As a continuation of this work, the latter publication illustrates concrete case studies on examples of training programmes that the Adecco Group and its entities have designed to support a green transition.

As a company overall, the Adecco Group is known as staffing and talent solutions provider. As companies do not always have the skills immediately needed, the company has gone beyond traditional staffing, investing in upskilling and reskilling by pledging upskilling opportunities to five million people by 2030, both internally and through B2B relations. In 2021 alone, 750,000 people have already been retrained, of which more than 200,000 are employees within the company. 

To fully understand green skills noted Ms Henry-Labordère, we first need to address its definition. The green transition impacts all sectors, encompassing a wide variety of skills, including digital, waste management, technical, etc. To make the green transition happen, we need to ensure we invest the resources to properly train people, particularly youth. The Adecco Group has defined training programs and partners with clients from early design phases to better match the alignment between needs and green skills of the future. The company is a strong advocate for the WBL approach as it is an efficient model to meet client demands combining theoretical with on-the-job training.

Another core principle for the Adecco Group is inclusivity as whenever there is a massive restructuring of the workforce, it is important to not leave anyone behind or on the side. The company takes careful measures to onboard and skill as many as possible. Ms Henry-Labordère illustrated a few examples of its work through Adecco Training France.

The first example given on green skilling was on the facilitation of 7500 apprenticeship contracts, extended to all sectors in France, including training for green jobs. To raise awareness on this, the Adecco Group launched its first digital learning module to train technical professionals and operators, targeting 26 cross-cutting jobs. This represents more than 1.6 million workers in France overall and within the Adecco Group almost 200,000 working already in these sectors.

The second example given is on a policy level. The company has targeted elected officials of towns and regions to ensure that policy is designed with French communities in rural areas in mind and so that the green transition and training also happens at a local level, leveraging local stakeholders and resources.

The third example is with Giobert, the second largest training provider in Italy. Giobert is a company operating in the automotive industry as a manufacturer for keys, lock cylinders and components for car interiors. Giobert is pursuing a massive restructuration, focusing on sustainability and greenhouse gases. As the automotive sector faces massive challenges, this has brought into light inefficiencies in the production and organization processes. During this training, executives and employees learn skills necessary to start an integrated methodology for quantifying the corporate carbon footprint for the entire company. Upon completing this training, the managers involved can guide and govern the process of measuring emissions in all its plants.

The last example incorporates both green skilling and inclusivity where they have partnered with BlocPower, a leading national climate tech company focused on greening urban buildings in the US. With its specialist brand on digital skilling, General Assembly, the company targeted under-represented communities, including 15 African American women to skill them on software engineering and java script.

As a conclusion, the key learnings from these case studies are:

1. In most cases, it is key to rely on some external funding – whether from public or private sources. Governments have a key role to push forward a skilling agenda towards sustainable jobs.

2. It is necessary to raise awareness on the availability of training. Many people are not informed of training opportunities, and they are sometimes not accessible.

3. There is a strong need on guidance, skills anticipation and labour market relevance, which contributes to the success of the training programmes.

Overall, the training examples illustrated show that there is much more room needed for collaboration with government, the public and private sectors. As a private sector representative, the Adecco Group recognises that they have a strong role to play going beyond job matching to actual skilling and is keen to work more with the public sector and its clients.

Emerging Trends and Opportunities in Green Skills

Ms Henry-Labordère referenced the automotive sector as a symbol of the green revolution. She noted that 35% of vehicles produced by 2025, will be hybrid. With the decline in thermal engines, this requires massive changes in the workforce for car manufacturers. As the automotive industry represents one of the Adecco Group’s biggest clients, they have examined data that shows changes in workforce constitution requiring less traditional automotive jobs, and demanding higher-skilled workers, such as engineers, network analysts, electrical engineers, electric vehicle maintenance and charging specialists.

Hundreds of thousands of different jobs will be created throughout the value chain alone. The most in demand jobs in the automotive sector are for data analysts and cybersecurity engineers.  As some jobs within this industry such as those involved in manufacturing thermal engines will decline drastically in ten years, offsetting these losses to transition to new jobs or sectors will require upskilling and reskilling. Ms Mannie added that as it will take years to upskill and reskill these new workers towards a greener automotive sector, the skills anticipation and needs data is crucial to allow training institutions time to adapt curricula for the future workforce.

Ms Öztürk Yudu represents TISK, an employers’ federation representing over 10,000 Turkish enterprises and 2 million employees. She confirmed that the core of most of its members’ business strategies are sustainability and digital skilling. TISK welcomes these transitions as a positive opportunity to leverage, considering that its membership represents one-fourth of the country’s GDP and 60% of exports.

Ms Öztürk Yudu highlighted the private sector as playing a crucial and willing role for climate change adaptation, mitigation and sustainability at both national and global levels. TISK also views digital transition and the efficient use of technology as a great enabler to move towards a greener economy.  

According to Ms Quintini, as with any other major labour market transitions, it is important to build upon skills that people already have. Training modules can facilitate this as they can reach a wider range of people, and they can also be stacked as a pathway towards upskilling. Although many large companies with sophisticated HR systems already facilitate this way of upskilling, through skills analysis, the challenge is on how to support SMEs, in which some countries may need more support than others. At the EC level, measures have been put in place to identify green skills important for each sector and training for green jobs, however a challenge is also on the awareness of measures available for employers and programmes for employees. 

At Nestlé, sustainability and climate change are top priorities with them as food chains are moving towards regeneration and inclusive systems supporting communities with nutrition. These aspects are embedded in all levels of decision making, according to Ms Naulette as nature and ecosystems are the foundation of food and life. As issues regarding sustainability are complex, Nestlé has simplified concepts into three pillars.

The first is on training all employees systematically through a broad set of tailored learning modules across all aspects of the business cycle, including agriculture, circularity, recycling, water regeneration, packaging, etc. Training on the issues and solutions is key for all employees across all functions to embed it in their strategies and decisions. They have transformed apprenticeship modules to make sure sustainability is embedded for young people from the very beginning at the start of their careers.

The second pillar is around engaging leaders and employees through the right incentives. Embedded in their objectives, each leader has a quantitative, collective goal and as well a personal goal on sustainability in their work so that they are taking part in the green transition.

The last pillar is on aligning the organization overall with the sustainability agenda. They have worked towards this goal by nominating sustainability leads – these roles are connectors and ensure that the objectives are implemented. These are new jobs that did not exist five years ago. Although Nestlé is a big company, through this type of collaboration that is facilitated through the sustainability leads, the overall objective towards the green transformation is a common thread throughout entire teams.  

Ms Naulette recognized that there is still much more to advance on the sustainability agenda, which they can improve by engaging more with client suppliers, customers and farmers on sustainability issues. Nestlé also wants to ensure that all their employees can discuss green transformation strategies with all these stakeholders involved, especially since most of their partners are SMEs.

Lastly, Ms Naulette referred to the youth sustainability movement launched within Nestlé has also taken shape consisting of young employees across seven countries considered as activists/Ambassadors challenging senior leaders on sustainability. They work in several departments from agriculture, transportation, to procurement, to make sure they are all going in the same direction towards sustainability and the initiative is growing.

Policy and Mind Shifts towards a Greener Workforce

Ms Henry-Labordère confirmed that the Adecco Group has observed that a main factor for the young generation when choosing an employer is its involvement in sustainability, the green transition, inclusion, and CSR issues in most of the countries where the company operates. In our quest towards a green transition, however, we want to ensure that we don’t leave anyone behind and that policies are as inclusive as possible.  Ms Henry-Labordère gave an example of a change in legislation in France which allowed companies such as the Adecco Group to act as an intermediary on apprenticeships between employer and apprentice.

Using this intermediation model, last year, the Adecco Group hired and trained 7,500 youth in various sectors including green and beyond such as construction, fiberoptics, etc. Of the 7,500 youth, more than 75% were hired. This example shows that collaboration with TVET, government, and the private sector is vital, especially when it comes to support to SMEs. Ms Mannie added that the standard setting process on quality apprenticeships currently being refined at the ILO indeed recognizes the importance of intermediaries in facilitating hiring and training of apprenticeship, especially in the context of labour market shifts.  

Ms Öztürk Yudu added that dialogue between all parties – industry, TVET institutions, government, etc. – is important for a greener and stronger workforce. She gave the example of MEXT technology center, established by TISK member employer association of metal industries, which supports measures towards a green and digital transition, for all companies, particularly for SMEs. As the biggest tech center in the world, specifically set up for the manufacturing sector, it provides up and reskilling programs for sustainability. It aims to train up to four levels of workers – operators, engineers, mid-level managers and C-levels in the steel, pharmaceutical, cement and textile industries to name a few.

Breaking Down Barriers to Ensure More Participation

At the OECD, much of their work also examines the crucial aspect of career guidance for youth and adults so they can make informed decisions about job opportunities and training options, according to Ms Quintini. Transversal skills are one element that are particularly needed for the green transition, an area where schools can improve on facilitating. On micro-credentials, this can also be a powerful tool, when regulated, recognized and in partnership with industry, referring to the case in New Zealand.

Two company examples were illustrated by Ms Naulette – Nestlé Needs YOUth and Alliance for YOUth initiative working with other companies from diverse sectors to widen impact, including the Adecco Group. At the core of these initiatives are understanding what youth are expecting to help them contribute to sustainability.

From the Adecco Group’s perspective soft skills are more difficult to define and cultivate, while technical skills are critical however, employers can provide this aspect. To facilitate this, according to Ms Henry-Labordère, companies need incentives to validate for green skills and other skills in general. There is a real need to consider investment in training as a critical investment. Employers should be encouraged to upskill and reskill for transformation challenges. Ms Mannie added by referring to a guide that GAN Global launched with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) on skilling for sustainable workforces. In this guide, three models to Buy, Borrow and Build for future workforces were referred to, with Ms Mannie pointing to the build model as requiring more investment in skilling strategies, while yielding longer-term results. Ms Öztürk Yudu added that it is important to especially have tailor made solutions for some sectors, especially SMEs and to involve them with bigger firms and start-ups.