According to new research, published by Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation and Sage, the market leader for cloud business management solutions, Manufacturers are powering ahead with training staff in the latest technologies, so they have the right skills to embrace digital and green solutions. The research - ‘Unlocking the Skills Needed for a Digital and Green Future’ - shows employees are being taught the latest automation, such as smart monitoring, remote sensing, data analytics and clean production.

And 70% of businesses have invested in training for their employees in the last year to improve their digital application knowledge. There is much at stake - 1.2million jobs could be created in the manufacturing and construction sector in a green economy by 2050. And digitally enabled energy efficiency could save UK business £6billion by 2030.

Manufacturers know a fundamental shift to a low carbon economy is coming with the report revealing that the overwhelming majority (98%) are aware of the Government’s Net Zero target. 92% say this is achievable in their business by 2050, but only if the right help is in place. This should include the introduction of a green skills tax credit to encourage manufacturers to upskill more of their staff.

Three quarters (77%) of companies surveyed said that they intend to set their own Net Zero target for their businesses within the next 24 months. Some 62% are also confident that their workforce is equipped with the green skills needed, but a third are experiencing a skills gap. Innovation is the top of the list in terms of skillset companies feel is needed to achieve the green targets, with 72% of companies saying a boost to innovation skills is critical to success.

Of the companies surveyed, 45% of companies revealed that green skills are needed at a higher level of training than other areas of business, with 30% saying those skills must be at level 6 or degree level. The average skill level of a Net Zero job is 26% higher than the current occupations across industry in the UK, so the quality of the training needs to he higher. Acquisition of those in-depth skills would enable companies to accelerate the deployment of clean technologies such as energy storage, demand-side response as well as increasing productivity across the board and reducing the use of resources.

Stephen Phipson, CEO of Make UK, the manufacturers organisation said: “Britain’s manufacturers have long shown that they are at the forefront of innovation globally and they have already gone a long way to improve their processes and production in the quest to reach Net Zero. But in order that they continue at speed, business needs Government to play its part in driving the process forward.

“To that end, Government needs to prioritise educational resources to make sure there is an increased provision of training at the higher skill levels of degree standard or above level 5. This will help to make sure industry has the skills it needs to take advantage of the opportunities in the digital and green economy. They should look to implement a green skills tax credit to encourage manufacturers to train their employees in the latest green skills and introduce a Help to Grow Green programme for managers and leaders to train them in the latest sustainable manufacturing processes and procedures.”

Paul Struthers, MD UK and Ireland, Sage, said: “Our research comes at a critical time for manufacturers as they invest and innovate to fuel the UK’s recovery. We know that 80% of manufacturers want the recovery to be rooted in sustainability.

“Digital technologies play a crucial role in helping businesses meet their sustainability ambitions, removing some of the barriers to taking climate action. Businesses’ ability to harness the right skills will be vital, as well as measures to incentivise businesses to invest in people and carbon reductions. This is especially important given that SMEs are already facing major challenges in attracting the talent they need. The recommendations in this report are essential steps to take if this sector is to progress its green agenda at pace.”