Across the North West, organisations are taking action to deliver cleaner, greener energy, cut carbon emissions and tackle climate change. Reaching net zero will require cutting-edge technology and new infrastructure built on a transformational scale. However, people are the real catalyst for change.

The role of education in addressing climate change took centre stage at last year’s COP26 summit, with then Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi detailing his vision to empower all young people in the importance of conserving and protecting our planet, as well as developing the skills needed to solve these problems.

The opportunities are huge. In the North West alone it’s estimated that there will be over 600,000 jobs created or safeguarded in the transition to net zero.

How do we attract and retain talent in the industry? Here in the North West, industry and academia are already working together to define and develop the skills needed by the future  workforce.

The Net Zero North West (NZNW) Cluster Plan, which Peel NRE has been involved in developing, outlines how the region will deliver on its aim to be the UKs first net zero carbon industrial cluster by 2040. The recently published Cluster Plan Innovation, Jobs and Skills report highlighted the importance of prioritising key skills and employment pathways; ensuring a co-ordinated approach across the region; and raising awareness of net zero skill and employment opportunities.

At Protos, we have a long-standing partnership with the University of Chester’s Thornton Science Park. This collaboration provides a supportive environment where ideas can come to life. Thornton offers world-class facilities; direct access to a highly-skilled and futureproof workforce; and ‘incubator’ spaces where innovative enterprises can develop. These ideas can then be taken from inception through to development; demonstration and large-scale application at one strategic location.

The next 30 years will see new jobs emerge, while some traditional roles will change or decline. Engineers, for example, who today work in North Sea oil and gas fields will have the chance to move over to work on carbon capture technology, such as the planned Protos CO2 network. Elsewhere, gas engineers could learn new skills to work with hydrogen on one of the many initiatives planned as part of major infrastructure project Hynet North West.

We need to encourage our current and future workforce, ensuring they are equipped with technological expertise, routes to upskill and a real passion to address climate change.

And we need to inspire our young people to consider a career in net zero. The planned HyNet Academy will be one way in which we can showcase the opportunities on offer and how these careers can make a difference to the planet.

As we begin the pivotal decade for reaching net zero, there are reasons to be confident and optimistic. The North West has a vision for where we need to go and it is developing a route map to get there.

Net Zero is a destination not a goal and addressing the skills and education gap is one important step to help us get there.