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  • 7th Jun 2023

Boosting the appeal of green skills and training: Findings from an online experiment

The UK’s push for Net Zero by 2050 is reshaping employment, with some carbon-intensive jobs declining and new green jobs emerging. However, as outlined by the Green Jobs Taskforce, as well as in our own recent evidence review, there’s a shortage of green skills in the UK’s labour market, and the demand for skills surpasses the supply. Encouraging workers to develop these skills through training is crucial, but people may lack awareness around the skills required to perform green jobs, and financial barriers, including upfront training costs and opportunity costs such as time out of work, can also deter them. This raises questions around how we can make green skills training more appealing and how we can incentivise people to develop green skills. 

To answer these questions, we worked with Nesta to conduct a randomised control trial, testing different message framings and financial incentives to make green skills training more appealing. Our trial involved 8,120 participants, including economically active individuals and career choosers (including recent grads and A/T level students), exploring their perceptions of green jobs and upskilling opportunities. Participants were first shown one of 5 message framings (outlined in Table 1), and were then re-randomised to see one of 4 financial incentives (outlined in Table 2).

Table 1. We tested 5 different message framings (including a control) 

Control / simplified Dynamic social norm framing Social impact + pro-environmental framing

(n = 1,646)

(n = 1,620)

(n = 1,649)

Job security/ green job demand Pride + future generations framing

(n = 1,578)

(n = 1,627)

We found that all framings performed similarly in sparking interest in green skills training courses. 

Around 1 in 2 said that they were interested regardless of framing. We found no differences between the economically active and recent graduates, and no differences between men and women.

After seeing the framings for the green skills offer, % who would be interested in going on a green skills training course

Table 2. We also tested 4 different financial incentives (including a control) – re-randomising participants to see one of these 


(n = 1,994)

Incentive / Grant

(n = 2,017)


(n = 1,985)

Subsidy / Discount

(n = 2,024)

We found that the grant (+39.5pp), loan (+28.2pp) and subsidy (+33.3pp) all significantly increased interest in green skills offers compared to the control group.

Interestingly, the grant performed better than the subsidy despite a similar net benefit. When shown the framings 50% of participants had been interested in going on a green skills training course, across all arms. This fell to 37.3% for the control arm where they were explicitly told that they would have to pay for the course. We’ve hypothesised that participants in the first experiment may not have considered who would be paying for training, and only took this into account when we explicitly stated that they would need to self-fund.

After seeing the financial information, % who would be interested in going on a green skills training course

We also surveyed people’s attitudes and understanding of green jobs and found…

  • The most important considerations around green skills training were related to financial factors and to convenience. For example, people said the salary of green jobs, the cost of training, and being able to train at a convenient time and place were most important. 
  • Many think green jobs are important but few know what green jobs are available and where to look for them.
      • Only 43% know what green jobs are available 
      • Only 42% know where to look to find a green job
  • Salary is still a key consideration for taking green jobs.
    • 77% said they would only take a green job if it paid the same as or more than a non-green job


Our findings are noteworthy, as they indicate that raising awareness or persuading individuals about the advantages of green skills may not be enough to encourage training uptake. Instead, focusing on ways of addressing the financial barriers to green skills training take up may be more effective.  

Explore Nesta’s blog for our full recommendations for policy and for further research on this topic.

Want to learn more? 

For comprehensive insights, don’t miss our full report: How to increase the appeal of green skills and training 

Lastly, if you are interested in exploring ways to connect more workers with green jobs we would love to hear from you.

Blog authors: Ed Whincup, Shoshana Davidson, Reny Kiryakova, Jordan Whitwell-Mak