Learning Objectives


European labour market policy is based around two major transitions – the European Green Deal and the digital transition. In this learning unit we look at what are Green skills and Green jobs and what they mean for the future of the Labour Market.

The European Green Deal

The European Green Deal, presented by the Commission on 11 December 2019, sets the goal of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The European Climate Law enshrines in binding legislation the EU's commitment to climate neutrality and the intermediate target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

The Role of Green Skills and Green Jobs

In the transition to a net-zero economy, Europe's competitiveness will strongly rely on its capacity to develop and manufacture the clean technologies that make this transition possible.

In a publication called 'The Green Employment and Skills Transformation' Cedefop says:

As with all investment policy decisions, understanding future trends and possible bottlenecks is crucial to facilitating the green transition. This is not only for making policy choices prudently, but also to be able to focus on success drivers and to build on existing green capacities in the economy and society. Becoming ‘greener’ will bring about such profound changes in technology, design, production, services, consumption and investment that it is impossible to achieve without sufficiently skilled people.

Defining Green Jobs

A prevailing problem is to define just what are the skills required and what are Green Jobs?

Anna Sidoti has addressed the problem of defining Green Jobs:

“The definition of a green job varies. That’s part of the problem – we don’t know exactly what this Labour Market will look like because it depends on how you define a green job, and there is no international consensus (yet). Green Jobs can be defined by:

  • Industry involved in climate transition (for example, energy infrastructure)
  • Occupations directly involved in climate transition (for example, wind turbine technician)
  • Skills required for climate transition, such as sustainable design, energy efficiency or environmental awareness (for example, workers involved in developing, generating, storing, transmitting and distributing energy generated from renewable, net-zero emission sources or “clean energy supply”)

The OECD has recommended that there is an international consensus on this. The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) has a broad definition of green employment: ‘green jobs’ are those involving activities such as community adaptation to climate change, and they nod to decent jobs as well. Check out the diagram below – green jobs are the ones in the striped area.

Critical Green Jobs Identified

Jobs and Skills Australia released a report oi October 2023, entitled The Clean Energy Generation: workforce needs for a net zero economy. Critical green jobs identified in this report are in engineering (all fields), electrical trades, such as electricians, telecommunications and air-conditioning and refrigeration techs. They said we need engineers, although not as much as we need environmental scientists. The report also outlines the need for lesser-known careers like mechanical fitters, marine pilots and food scientists. They anticipate a 40% increase in these roles by 2050, primarily in regional areas.

The UK’s UK Green Jobs taskforce report predicts significant GDP growth and 300,000 new jobs by 2050 linked to green technology. The critical roles identified in the UK are similar to Australia. This report identifies other green jobs required to power the energy transition – construction supply chain jobs,(planners, architects, engineers, heat pump installers) hydrogen jobs (pipe-fitters) and automotive jobs (Electric Vehicle mechanics).

ESCO's Contribution to Green Skills

The European Classification of Occupations, Skills ad Competences (ESCO) are responsible for the European taxonomy of skills and occupations providing a common language on occupations and skills, and also the relationships between them, specifying which skills are essential or optional for a specific occupation. In 2022 they released an updated version of the taxonomy to support the green transition of the labour market.

“As workers need a skill set that can respond to the need of reducing emissions in working practices” they say. “The Skills / Competences pillar has been enriched with the additional information at skill level to distinguish green skills and knowledge concepts. This means that within the whole dataset of ESCO skills, some can now be filtered as green. ESCO also provides information such as their reusability type and are linked with occupations. All the concepts are translated in 27 languages and are available free of charge in different formats.”

A total of 571 ESCO skills and knowledge concepts are labelled as green. This includes: 381 skills, 185 knowledge concepts, and 5 transversal skills. The full list of green concepts is available in the ESCO portal. The green concepts aim to cover the activities of the European labour market. As such, skills range within different economic sectors, from energy production and distribution to manufacturing processes, from waste management and pollution standards to auditing and impact assessment, from research to education.

Emerging Trends and Strategies

The work from ESCO is valuable, especially in showing the Green Skills are needed in many jobs and occupations and not just the obvious ones. Yet the challenge remains of how to use ESCO’s classification system. ESCO have recently published a new report, Jobs for the Green Transition, Definitions, Classifications and emerging trends, hoping to deal with the issues of defining Green Jobs and Skills.

The problem is that it is not really a switch from not Green Jobs to Green jobs but rather that skills are changing, and jobs increasingly involve what might be called Green Skills.

The report introduces a novel taxonomy for green jobs based on four pillars: inputs, outputs, processes, and job quality. This taxonomy aims to provide a practical framework for assessing and comparing case studies, supporting policy making in this area. Furthermore, the report highlights recent strategies and policies, both at the EU and national levels, focusing on skill development for the green transition and addressing social aspects to protect vulnerable groups. It suggests that a more integrated approach, considering the environmental impact of work processes, outputs, and supply chain inputs, is essential for promoting green job creation while phasing out brown jobs.

US O*Net Service and Green Occupations

The US O*Net service, responsible for job classifications and data in the USA, has identified 202 Green Occupations with occupational categories assigned to:

  • Green New & Emerging  - The impact of green economy activities and technologies is sufficient to create the need for unique work and worker requirements, which results in the generation of new occupations.
  • Green Enhanced Skills - The impact of green economy activities and technologies results in a significant change to the work and worker requirements of an existing O*NET-SOC occupation.
  • Green Increased Demand - The impact of green economy activities and technologies results in an increase in employment demand, but does not entail significant changes in the work and worker requirements of the occupation.

They have also identified 72 ‘Green Topics’ with related Green occupations and related Education Programs

Adapting to Changing Labour Markets

Not just the Green Transition but also the rapid changes to labour markets through the introduction of Artificial Intelligence, require a faster and better integrated approach.

Cedefop runs sectoral skills foresight exercises with a forward-looking approach to understand which are the occupations/skill profiles that are necessary for the transition of selected sectors towards a "greener" future, so to accommodate the implications of the European Green Deal; and how could or should vocational education and training (VET) support the development of such skill sets.

Although impact is expected across the economy, some sectors are foreseen to be affected more intensely. Sector stakeholders and other interested parties that are involved in the provision of skills training would significantly benefit from the identification of new/emerging skills that will affect (or are already affecting) specific occupations; the ways to make their skill systems more responsive to these rapid changes in the short-term, but also ways to facilitate their response to skill changes in the medium/longer-term.

This includes Skills foresight exercises are for smart and green cities; waste management; agri-food and circular economy.

Transitioning to a Circular Economy

While it can be argued that while there are new skills being required for many jobs and that there are skills shortages in some new occupations, the major impact of the Green Transition may be seen in a move towards the Circular Economy, and this will increasingly affect almost every sector. Cedefop’s 2023 study 'From linear thinking to green growth mindsets' stresses the need for sectors to shift from linear to circular production models to reduce consumption of natural resources. This wider approach, they say, is shaping skill demand. They explain that as most occupations probably include ‘green’ and ‘non-green’ tasks or skills, a ‘greenness’ continuous scale provides an occupational classification with a better understanding of changes in skillsets, but timely updates are imperative to capture emerging green jobs.

A data driven approach

Cedefop has developed a data-driven approach: this extracts information from online job advertisements related to skills associated with the green transition that are asked for by employers. ‘Greenness’ is assessed by the job’s skills and tasks, not only its title. Cedefop’s feasibility study – covering France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK – shows employers looking for employees to be innovative, which requires a transversal skill whereby workers can create and adapt to any change, not only to the green transition.

The European Commission’s Green Deal Industrial Plan supports increasing the EU's manufacturing capacity to produce the net-zero technologies and products required. All sectors crucial for the green transition, as identified by the Green Deal Industrial Plan and including waste management, construction and energy, depend on intermediate skill jobs (at ISCED levels 3 and 4) to which VET typically provides access.

Cedefop suggests “the entire range of skill needs within a sector can be met given the increased availability of higher levels of VET”. For example, they say although tertiary (higher) education is the primary path for some ‘thyroid occupations’, such as waste management engineer, VET is increasingly used to train these professionals.


The very scale of the changes in skills required for the Green Transition requires joined up actions by all those involved in skills and qualifications. This includes further advances in Sills Intelligence, Monitoring and Anticipation not just at the European level but in different countries and different regions. It also requires developing Pathways to higher skills in Green Occupations and the provision of a range of flexible training opportunities including apprenticeship and work based learning as well as training programmes in VET and higher education. This could include micro qualifications and online and hybrid learning programmes. An ongoing problem in many countries is the lack of clear outcomes fro learning programmes and the lack of transparency and recognition of learning. This needs the implementation of open standards. Sector bodies will need to look at changing skill needs in their sector and particularly what the Circular Economy means for them. Career Advisors and Public Employment Services need the knowledge about the Green transitions to support and advise clients on how to gain the skills they need to enter the Green Labour Market. There are an increasing number of projects and initiatives in this area, but they need to be joined up. Obviously digitalisation can help with this. But it’s a big agenda.

Questions for Reflection

European Green Deal Impact
Reflect on how the European Green Deal’s goal of climate neutrality by 2050 will reshape various sectors across Europe. Which sectors do you anticipate will undergo the most significant changes?
Defining Green Skills and Jobs
Discuss the challenges in defining green jobs and green skills. How do these challenges affect policy making and labour market planning? Emerging Trends in Green Labor Market: Consider the role of circular economy principles, digitalization, and lifelong learning in the green transition. How might these trends influence the development of green skills?
Policy and Stakeholder Roles
Reflect on the role of policy interventions and stakeholder engagement in advancing the green skills agenda. What strategies could be most effective in promoting these skills?
ESCO's Green Skills Taxonomy
Evaluate the importance of ESCO's taxonomy in supporting the green transition. How can this resource aid organizations in identifying and cultivating necessary green skills?
Adapting to Labor Market Changes
Think about the rapid changes in labour markets due to AI and the green transition. How can vocational education and training (VET) adapt to meet the emerging needs?


European Commission (2024) The European Green Deal, https://commission.europa.eu/strategy-and-policy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal_en

Cedefop (2021) The green employment and skills transformation: insights from a European Green Deal skills forecast scenario. Luxembourg: Publications Office, http://data.europa.eu/doi/10.2801/112540

European Commission (2022) New taxonomy of skills for the green transition, https://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/empl/items/741088/en

O*NET, (undated) Green Occupations, https://www.onetcenter.org/dictionary/21.1/excel/green_occupations.html

Cedefop, (undated) Skills and Jobs for the Green Transition, https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/projects/skills-and-jobs-green-transition

Cedefop (2023) From linear thinking to green growth mindsets. Vocational education and training and skills as springboards for the circular economy. POLICY BRIEF, https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/9184_en.pdf

European Commission (2024) Green Deal Industrial Plan, https://commission.europa.eu/strategy-and-policy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal/green-deal-industrial-plan_en


Presentation - Skills and jobs for the green transformation. Implications for VET, Stelina Chatzichristou, Cedefop/ https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/vgt7_greening_vet_chatzichristou.pdf

Research Report - 'Green' jobs and skills development for disadvantaged groups - https://www.rand.org/randeurope/research/projects/green-jobs-and-skills-development-for-disadvantaged-groups.html

Slide Deck - Skills for a Green Transition - Solutions for Youth on the Move, UNICEF - https://www.unicef.org/media/153081/file/Webinar%20Slide%20decks%20-%20Skills%20for%20Green%20transition.pdf