CANBERRA, AAP – The task of transforming to a cleaner economy is far larger than anyone expects and most of us are still in the dark about what skills are needed, a business forum has been told.

Industrial-scale investment in new technologies and changes within households are part of a carbon neutral economy, along with new skills and training programs, a Committee for Economic Development of Australia event was told on Friday.

Richard Bolt of international consultancy Nous Group said partnerships between business and government are important, but what is lacking is big-picture thinking about what the economy will look like in 2050, 2070 and into 2100.

“That kind of picture of the future is one of the big missing pieces, and we’re very much navigating in the dark with no helicopters, no drones or anything to show us what the landscape ahead might look like,” he said.

He says business has a critical role in defining what skills will be needed.


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Companies need to engage in the policy debate, get new programs into the education system, and have internal plans for practical “green work experience”.

“Everyone needs to be in a sense green aware, green capable and thinking about an economy in very different ways to those that my generation is brought up with,” he said.

LinkedIn chief economist Karin Kimbrough said some sectors are adapting faster than others.

Agriculture is making a rapid adjustment with the adoption of green technology and green skills, as is construction where new techniques and products are being used.

“When you do have green skills, you get hired more quickly,” she said.

“The problem is that most people don’t know what skill they need to get the next role, or how to get the correct skill for the green job they want.”

Melinda Cilento, chief executive of the independent think tank CEDA, said there is a huge push for sustainability.

“Part of the quid pro quo will be employees looking at what the sustainability credentials are of their employers, and also the opportunities for themselves to develop those skills.”

Mr Bolt said the task is far larger than anyone expects, and will be capital-intensive.

“We’re talking anything from 10 to 30 times the current renewable capacity that Australia has already built over the last 20 years,” he said.

Large-scale renewable energy sources such as on and offshore wind, solar farms, electrolyser facilities, huge water pipelines and new powerlines will be developed.

New fleets of vehicles, trains, planes and ships will need to be built or imported.

“They’ll be operating on completely different energy sources and technologies,” Mr Bolt said.

“Most of that will be built overseas, but the housing of them, the refuelling, charging, maintaining and operating of them will be done here.”

He expects the next generation of workers won’t have specialised “green skills” because everyone will need them.