Building Skills for a Clean Economy - Executive Summary

May 16, 2022

The Building Skills for a Clean Economy report identifies opportunities and learnings to help workers with transferable skills in sectors at risk of disruption by the clean economy transition and technological transformation to become gainfully employed in the cleantech sector. Read the full report here.

Key Takeaways

The economic disruption resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity to rebuild in a more sustainable way as Canada moves to achieve a cleaner economy, including Net Zero emissions by 2050. As industries transition to fit into this clean economy, so follows a redistribution of employment and the types of skills needed among the workforce. 

“Clean technology, also referred to as cleantech, is any technological process, product, or service that… uses less material or energy, generates less waste, and causes less negative environmental impacts than the industry standard.” ECO Canada

The cleantech sector in Canada has seen growth and rising employment demand as more industries look to technology to help reduce their environmental footprint, but as shown in this report, many cleantech companies are experiencing challenges in recruiting workers with the skills needed to support the success of their businesses.

Skills for a Clean Economy sought to identify opportunities and learnings to help workers with transferable skills exit sectors at risk of disruption by the clean economy transition and technological transformation to become gainfully employed in the cleantech sector. 


Roles and skills in demand in the cleantech workforce

The following skills in were commonly identified as in-demand by representatives of cleantech companies participating in the research: 

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Skills:

  • Data Management and Data Analytics
  • Programming
  • Automation
  • Software Development
  • Digital Marketing
  • Modeling 

Non-ICT Skills:

  • Sales/Business Development
  • Marketing
  • Communications
  • Public Policy
  • Trades (notably electricians, HVAC, plumbing)
  • Customer Relations/Support

Common themes

Participating cleantech companies frequently raised the following two points relating to the cleantech workforce: 

  1. Having a basic familiarity with climate change and sustainability principles is important for cleantech employees. This knowledge helps workers to understand the value of clean technologies and align with company values.
  2. Often key skills are not highly specialized to cleantech. There is a perception that cleantech roles require extensive specialized technical knowledge, when often common skills can be used with a different lens.


The project team received suggestions for key stakeholders to optimize responses to the sector’s workforce needs during the clean economy transition. 

Education briefs and learning strategy recommendations

Two education briefs were developed for the creation of upskilling courses for learners from at-risk industries with transferable skills to transition to the cleantech sector. These courses emphasize work-based learning components that allow workers to actively demonstrate their transferable skills and better understand how these existing skills can be utilized in clean economy jobs. 

The upskilling course model is based on research findings that suggest many roles within cleantech do not require highly specialized skills, but rather common workforce skills applied in a slightly different way. It is therefore recommended that future workforce development and training programs targeted at the clean economy transition include work-based learning components. 


The following recommendations are provided for actors in the field to best contribute to workforce transitions as we shift to a clean economy:


  • Increase emphasis on work-integrated learning elements in curricula
  • Capitalize on the growing trend of short upskilling courses and microcredentials to support mid-career transitions
  • Encourage a multi-disciplinary approach to learning across faculties


  • Provide financial support to further the research and development of training programs to transition workers into clean economy jobs
  • Consider initiatives to increase public awareness and understanding of cleantech as a career option
  • Support a clearer definition of cleantech and the adoption of related standards

Supporting Organizations

  • Develop ecosystem partnerships to act as a bridge between industry, government, Indigenous communities, and academia to establish gaps in workforce development
  • Continue research on workforce development gaps


This report was created by Foresight in partnership with ECO Canada, Lighthouse Labs, The Delphi Group, Riipen, and Vancouver Economic Commission and funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre.