Germany needs hundreds of thousands of additional skilled workers in order to achieve its climate goals. Find out what exactly is meant by ‘green jobs’ and the areas where you can find them, and learn about the opportunities they are creating for international professionals.
The consequences of climate change are becoming ever more apparent. In response, the Federal Government adopted a climate action programme last year to reduce Germany’s CO₂ emissions by 65% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. The plans include a major expansion of renewable energy, increasing the proportion of electric cars and giving over more land to organic farming, as well as building 400,000 new climate-friendly homes each year. According to forecasts by the Institute for Employment Research in Nuremberg (IAB), the transition to the green economy will create many new jobs. As a consequence, Germany will need around 400,000 additional workers from 2025 if it is to achieve its climate goals.
According to the definition from the International Labour Organisation, green jobs are ‘decent jobs that contribute to preserve or restore the environment’. These jobs exist in almost all sectors of the economy, from agriculture to industry and energy, and from transport to administration and the service sector. It’s not just wind turbine engineers or sustainability officers at big corporations who have green jobs. Other examples include tradespeople who install insulation in old buildings, or IT experts who develop software to improve energy efficiency. This diversity means it isn’t always easy to distinguish between green and ‘non-green’ jobs. Researchers at the IAB have developed a glossary of key words from A to Z to help identify relevant job advertisements.
In a project that started at the beginning of this year, Dr Gerd Zika is investigating the specific skills and qualifications that will be needed on the journey towards climate neutrality. According to Dr Zika, it is already clear that ‘There is often an overlap between those occupational categories where there is already a shortage of workers to fill vacancies, and those that will be important for the transition to a green economy. At present this mainly affects many jobs in the construction sector, from architecture and building design through to heating and climate technologies,’ he says. Dr Zika is concerned that the shortage of skilled workers could significantly delay the implementation of Germany’s climate action programme.
Recognition of foreign qualifications (Make it in Germany)
Several online job sites specialise in green jobs. Jan Strohschein, the managing director of , has been observing this particular labour market for over 20 years. ‘Apart from a short decline caused by the pandemic in 2020, the number of job advertisements has risen strongly in recent years,’ he says. Of the 1,700 jobs currently advertised on greenjobs.de, 700 are related to renewables, a field with a particularly high proportion of well qualified workers. These jobs are published in identical form on the site. Strohschein also sees considerable demand for skilled workers to construct and operate energy efficient buildings: ‘There’s a lot of activity there right now, particularly around start-ups,’ he says. He also observes that the demand for town and country planners and ornithologists is much higher than it was ten years ago. In Strohschein’s view, employers are mainly looking for qualifications in science, engineering and IT.
The largest online platform for jobs in the renewable energy sector is . , and are other cross-sector portals which sometimes also include vacancies in the social sector without a direct link to the environment. While these job sites only use German, vacancies are also available in English, French and Spanish on , the Federal Government portal for skilled workers from abroad. Around 32,000 vacancies are currently listed on the site. Green jobs are a major focus of the portal, which also provides information on visa rules and where to find advice.
In principle, international applicants are well placed when it comes to jobs in shortage professions. However, in most cases they must have a good knowledge of German. Large companies with international operations where English is widely used for work tend to be more open to hiring professionals from abroad. However, Jan Strohschein identifies a contrasting attitude among small and medium-sized enterprises and organisations, which are strongly represented on greenjobs.de. According to Jan, they have thus far ‘not shown much initiative when it comes to the foreign labour market,’ perhaps with the exception of engineering and research jobs. This could all change as the shortage of skilled workers tightens. While the economic crisis has caused the number of vacancies to fall from the all-time high it reached in the early summer, Strohschein says, ‘I’m still convinced that the green jobs boom will continue for the medium and long term.’
Germany alumnus Mario Cornaló tells us what brought him to Germany for a semester abroad, why working in the European energy sector is so exciting for him now and how he contributes to the energy transition with his work in offshore wind parks.