Reskilling Essential To Assist Transitioning Traditional Roles To Sustainability-Focused Positions

Highlights :

  • Dhriti Prasanna Mahanta, Business Head and Vice President at TeamLease Degree

    Apprenticeship in conversation with SaurEnergy

Reskilling Essential To Assist Transitioning Traditional Roles To Sustainability-Focused Positions Dhriti Prasanna Mahanta, Business Head and Vice President at TeamLease Degree

There has been a significant surge in the demand for sustainability roles across various industries. From renewable energy engineers to sustainability managers, companies are actively seeking professionals with expertise in environmental conservation and sustainable practices. This trend not only reflects a growing awareness of environmental issues but also underscores the importance of integrating sustainability into business operations.

The emergence of green careers is expected to create a wide range of job opportunities, including roles such as wind turbine technicians, ESG analysts, energy specialists, and more. These roles play a crucial role in driving sustainability initiatives, implementing renewable energy solutions, and managing environmental impact. SaurEnergy spoke to Dhriti Prasanna Mahanta, Business Head and Vice President at TeamLease Degree Apprenticeship, to get a better perspective on the unfolding changes and opportunities. Teamlease is among the leaders in India’s market for manpower recruitment.


How is the market evolving when it comes to sustainability-linked roles?

Dhriti Prasanna Mahanta: The global market for sustainability-linked roles is evolving rapidly as environmental preservation gains worldwide recognition and sustainability becomes a fundamental component of governance. This shift is particularly pronounced in India, where the government has set ambitious targets to reduce emissions intensity and increase reliance on non-fossil fuel-based energy sources. To meet these objectives, substantial investments in green infrastructure and sustainable practices are being made, driving the emergence of green jobs across various industries. The demand for such roles is soaring, with projections indicating that India will generate an additional 30-35 million green skills across sectors by 2047. The World Economic Forum forecasts that up to 50 million skilled individuals could contribute to a net-zero economy, potentially adding $15 trillion to the economy. These green jobs span a broad spectrum, from renewable energy and electric mobility to sustainable agriculture and green construction.

The renewable energy sector alone is a significant contributor, with roles in solar and wind energy projects, energy efficiency, and sustainable waste management also rising. The shift towards electric vehicles is also creating numerous jobs in manufacturing, maintenance, and infrastructure development. Moreover, sustainable agriculture practices are promoting roles in organic farming and water conservation. Green construction is another burgeoning field, emphasizing energy-efficient buildings and sustainable urban planning. Furthermore, as industries adapt to sustainable practices, the need for skilled professionals in environmental science, engineering, and management is becoming increasingly critical. Educational institutions and training programs are evolving to meet this demand, equipping the workforce with the necessary skills to support India’s green transition.

We have seen multiple booms in areas like fintech, biotech, mobility etc, and now sustainability. How different do you find this sector versus the others? Within sustainability, what are the top skills in demand at scale? What about as you go up the chain?

Dhriti Prasanna Mahanta: While fintech, biotech, mobility are flourishing, India’s booming sustainability industry tackles environmental issues like pollution and deforestation, while creating millions of green jobs and economic growth. It also reduces reliance on fossil fuels, improves public health, and positions India as a leader in the global green economy. This industry offers a win-win for the environment and the Indian economy, attracting foreign investment and boosting trade. Sustainability is emerging as a significant area of growth, with the green technology and sustainability market valued at USD 28.6 billion in 2024 and projected to grow to USD 134.9 billion by 2030. This sector, though promising, faces challenges in regulation, funding, and achieving large-scale impact, yet it attracts entrepreneurs due to its potential for high growth and positive societal impact.

India currently employs 20% of its workforce in Green jobs, a number expected to witness a 2x growth by 2030. These roles span across sectors such as Solid Waste Management, Agriculture, Water Waste Management, and more, including emerging areas like Green Transportation and Green Hydrogen. The decarbonization efforts targeted for India by 2070 could unlock $15 trillion in economic opportunities and create 5 crore new net jobs, particularly in mobility, industry, agriculture, and green building. Common green job roles in India include solar panel installers, electric vehicle engineers, and environmental scientists. Emerging “Green Collar Jobs” feature roles like Renewable Energy Business Engineers and Sustainable Design Architects, reflecting the growing emphasis on sustainability across industries. This trajectory highlights a significant shift towards environmentally conscious practices and technologies, promising both economic growth and job creation in the country.

The idea of apprenticeships, why was the need felt for this approach? Tell us more about how this has been structured

Dhriti Prasanna Mahanta: Apprenticeships in India are increasingly crucial for bridging the skill gap between academic education and industry requirements. As the economy grows, particularly in sectors like manufacturing, IT, and green technologies, the demand for a skilled workforce has surged. Apprenticeships provide hands-on training and practical experience, ensuring graduates possess the necessary skills for employment, thus enhancing employability and reducing youth unemployment. The legal framework for apprenticeships is established under the Apprentices Act, 1961, which regulates and promotes training in industries and services. Significant amendments in 2014 simplified the process, increased employer engagement, and expanded the scope to non-engineering fields. Programs like the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) and the National Apprenticeship Training Scheme (NATS) further support the growth of apprenticeship opportunities. Over the past four years, the rate of apprentice engagement by organizations has increased substantially by 35%-40% year-on-year, reaching nearly a million apprentices in 2023-24. However, this still accounts for only 0.14% of the labor force, compared to 3% in Germany and the UK. Achieving comparable levels of engagement could create a pipeline of 20 million apprentices, significantly boosting India’s skilled workforce.

Apprenticeships advocate for a modular learning approach, accommodating diverse needs and career goals. Programs can be as short as six months, offering certificates that equip individuals with entry-level skills, leading to immediate employment or serving as a foundation for further education. For those seeking deeper knowledge, apprenticeships provide diploma programs (typically one to two years) and graduate diplomas (often two years) for a more comprehensive skill set. Ambitious individuals can pursue degrees through apprenticeship programs, usually lasting up to three years. Credits from shorter programs can often be applied towards higher qualifications, creating a clear pathway for continuous learning and professional development. Studies have shown that within a 12-24 month period, higher education-linked apprenticeships improve retention by 25%, reduce talent acquisition costs by 50%, increase productivity by 20-25%, and yield a 3X return on learning investment. This comprehensive approach ensures that apprentices enter the workforce with both job-ready skills and the potential for long-term career development, positioning India to better meet the demands of a dynamic global economy.

What about the need and opportunity to reskill people in affected sectors for sustainability-based jobs?

Dhriti Prasanna Mahanta: As the fourth-highest contributor to renewable energy globally, with ambitious targets to generate 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2030, India is undergoing a significant transformation. For instance, solar energy alone is projected to create 3.26 million jobs by 2050, wind energy 0.18 million jobs by 2030, and bioenergy and green hydrogen sectors 0.27 million and 0.6 million green jobs respectively by 2030. Additionally, urbanization is expected to reach 60% of the population by 2050, increasing waste generation by 4% annually. Currently, only 28% of waste is treated, presenting significant opportunities in waste management, including e-waste and wastewater management. Notably, e-waste management is estimated to create 0.5 million formal jobs by 2025, and wastewater management will require numerous skilled workers in the next decade. Furthermore, the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) is expected to create 10 million direct and 50 million indirect jobs by 2030, while also upskilling the existing 35 million Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) workforce. Similarly, sustainable practices in the textile sector offer opportunities for 45 million textile workers, and approximately 11 million jobs in the construction sector are predicted to be affected by 2030 due to sustainability transitions.

As industries undergo transformation, the demand for workers with specialized green skills is on the rise. Hence, reskilling programs are essential to assist individuals in transitioning from traditional roles to sustainability-focused positions by providing training in renewable energy, green technology, and environmental management. The Green General Skill Index by UNIDO outlines four pivotal skill sets for this transition: Engineering and technical skills, Science skills, Operational management skills, and Monitoring skills. Apprenticeships, particularly degree apprenticeships, can spearhead this reskilling effort due to their modular learning approach. They offer hands-on training and practical experience in real-world settings, thereby enhancing job readiness and supporting continuous professional development. Initiatives such as the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) and the National Apprenticeship Training Scheme (NATS) facilitate the integration of higher education with job readiness, allowing individuals to earn while they learn. By integrating apprenticeships into reskilling initiatives, India can effectively address skills gaps, enabling individuals to seize opportunities in the green economy and support the country’s journey towards decarbonization by 2070.

What is the role being played by the government and its various skills initiatives?

Dhriti Prasanna Mahanta: Through various skills initiatives and programs, the government aims to address skills shortages, enhance employability, and support economic growth. Initiatives such as the Skill India Mission, the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), and the Skill Council for Green Jobs (SCGJ) are instrumental in providing training and certification in green skills and promoting workforce readiness for sustainability-based jobs. Additionally, the government’s focus on renewable energy and green infrastructure projects creates employment opportunities and drives skill development in the green sector. The Apprenticeship Act of 1961 stands as a pivotal measure, mandating that businesses with more than 30 employees allocate minimum 2.5% of its workforce to apprenticeships (subject to a ceiling of 15%, except Karnataka and Maharashtra where it’s 25%). This statutory requirement serves as a cornerstone in nurturing a skilled workforce tailored to meet the evolving demands of industries. The Act also empowers companies to leverage Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds to cover training costs exceeding the stipulated 2.5% threshold, underscoring a dual commitment to skill development and societal welfare.

The apprenticeship programs, which fall under the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) and the National Apprenticeship Training Scheme (NATS), are governed by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and the Ministry of Education, respectively. These programs typically span up to three years and involve a combination of on-the-job training and certification. The National Education Policy 2020 supports work-based education programs, including degree apprenticeships, which train individuals and make them industry-ready.

The apprenticeship programs in India are already providing comprehensive training for a wide array of roles, including Solar PV Cell Manufacturing Technician, Installer – Civil & Electrical, Wastewater Treatment Plant Technician, Solar Lighting Assembler, Solar PV Project Helper, Facility Cleaning Professional, Solar PV Manufacturing Operator, Wind Power Plant Technician (Electrical), Solar Technician (Electrical), and Solar PV Installer (Suryamitra). These initiatives are instrumental in preparing the workforce for the future by providing invaluable on-the-job training and facilities for experiential learning, thereby contributing to both individual career advancement and the sustainable development of the economy.

Do you think the apprenticeship initiative is a fallout of shortcomings in our education system, or do you see scope to build greater academic integration to ensure a better-prepared workforce?

Dhriti Prasanna Mahanta: We face substantial skill deficits, with just around 5% of the workforce considered formally skilled. According to the India Skills Report 2024, only about 50% of Indian youth are employable. Shockingly, as per the World Economic Forum, only one in four management professionals, one in five engineers, and one in 10 graduates are employable. Moreover, future jobs will necessitate both advanced technical skills and softer, transferable skills, crucial for thriving in a highly competitive and fast-paced work environment. This has led to industries struggling to create a sustainable talent supply chain, while students and youth joining the workforce often lack the abilities required by the industry.

This urgent scenario demands a shift towards holistic skill-based education, as envisaged in NEP 2020, which prioritizes skill development alongside theoretical knowledge. The apprenticeship initiative effectively addresses shortcomings in the traditional education system by providing hands-on training and practical experience aligned with industry requirements. While traditional education focuses on theoretical knowledge, apprenticeships emphasize practical skills development and real-world work experience. However, there is untapped potential to build greater academic integration to ensure a better-prepared workforce.

By aligning apprenticeship programs with formal education curricula and fostering collaboration between academia and industry, we can enhance the relevance and effectiveness of apprenticeships in preparing individuals for the demands of the modern workforce. Taking one step further, Degree Apprenticeship emerges as the integration of apprenticeship with higher education, offering a blend of on-the-job and theoretical higher learning. It adheres to UGC guidelines as per the New Education Policy 2020, primarily aiming to make apprenticeship desirable for the youth, making them job-ready while developing their functional and cognitive capabilities. With a combination of three elements: one-third ITI (Industrial Training Institute), one-third employment exchange, and one-third education provider, our degree apprenticeship programs emphasize real-world skills and job readiness. By placing apprentices in various job roles and facilitating experiential learning opportunities, we aim to empower individuals with practical expertise and industry-relevant knowledge essential for success in today’s dynamic workforce.

Are these jobs mostly urban- based or are there opportunities beyond these centers as well?

Dhriti Prasanna Mahanta: Sustainability-related roles in India are not solely confined to urban areas; they extend across various regions, driven by a burgeoning demand for green jobs nationwide. While urban centers may exhibit a higher concentration of such roles due to factors like infrastructure development and corporate presence, rural areas are also witnessing significant growth in sustainability-related employment opportunities. According to data from 2022-2023, the contract/gig workforce engaged in Green Jobs totaled 2.9 million, a figure projected to soar to a remarkable 7.05 million by 2029-2030, growing at a robust compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.2%. This expansion indicates a broadening reach of sustainability initiatives beyond urban landscapes, with rural communities increasingly participating in renewable energy projects, conservation efforts, and eco-friendly agricultural practices. Moreover, government schemes and initiatives aimed at promoting sustainable development in rural areas are further catalyzing the adoption of green practices and the creation of related job opportunities.

The government already has a long-running SolarMitra training initiative, focused on solar installations. Now with solar manufacturing taking off in India, are you looking at training personnel for roles in manufacturing?

Dhriti Prasanna Mahanta: We are set to witness a significant expansion in solar manufacturing in India, marking a pivotal shift in our focus towards training personnel for roles within this burgeoning sector. The PM Surya Ghar Muft Bijli Yojana, aimed at providing free electricity through solar power, stands as a testament to our commitment, poised to create substantial employment opportunities by training a workforce of 100,000 individuals in solar panel installation and maintenance. This initiative aligns with our broader goal of facilitating 10 million households in transitioning to solar energy, emphasizing both job creation and the adoption of sustainable energy practices. In 2022, India witnessed notable growth in the solar sector, with an estimated 281,400 jobs in the industry, spanning roles in on-grid and off-grid settings. Presently, the renewable energy sector supports 700,000 jobs, a figure projected to rise to 3.5 million by 2030. This growth encompasses various job roles, including solar PV installation, engineering, project management, and manufacturing. The apprenticeship model plays a pivotal role in this context, providing practical training that complements theoretical education, ensuring individuals are well-prepared for the workforce. By embedding apprenticeships within the formal education system and fostering partnerships between academia and industry, we can significantly enhance the relevance and impact of training programs, ensuring apprentices acquire the specific skills needed to thrive in solar manufacturing and related fields. Additionally, there has been a notable increase in demand for women apprentices, particularly in sectors like automotive and electronics manufacturing, indicating a positive shift towards greater gender diversity in the workforce and addressing historical imbalances. These concerted efforts contribute not only to the growth of the renewable energy sector but also to broader economic development and sustainability goals in India.

Could you provide us with indicative salaries for different roles with or without experience today?

Dhriti Prasanna Mahanta: The renewable energy sector in India is indeed experiencing rapid growth, fostering numerous career opportunities across its various sub-sectors. Salaries within this field exhibit a wide range, reflecting the diverse roles and levels of expertise required. For example, salaries in the solar sector typically range from 3-12 lakh per annum (LPA), covering positions from solar project managers to technicians. Likewise, the wind energy sector offers salaries from 2.5-9 LPA, spanning roles such as turbine technicians to project leads. In the hydro sector, salaries fall between 2-6 LPA, encompassing roles from hydropower plant operators to turbine engineers. Similarly, the green building sector offers salaries ranging from 4-12 LPA, covering positions like energy efficiency consultants to sustainability analysts. Additionally, in the high-demand carbon sinks sector, salaries range from 8-25 LPA, covering roles from climate specialists to carbon analysts.

Within this salary spectrum, apprenticeship programs play a vital role. These programs not only provide stipends typically ranging from 10,000 to 20,000 INR per month but also offer invaluable hands-on experience and practical training. By bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application, apprenticeships facilitate skill development and deepen understanding of the industry’s intricacies. Furthermore, they serve as effective pathways for both newcomers and professionals to enter and excel in the renewable energy sector.

Investing in apprenticeship initiatives and prioritizing skill development holds immense potential for both individuals and the industry at large. As the sector continues to burgeon, nurturing a skilled workforce through apprenticeships will be critical for sustaining growth and innovation. By seizing the opportunities presented by apprenticeship programs, individuals can embark on fulfilling careers while contributing to the advancement of the renewable energy sector, ultimately driving sustainable progress for India and beyond.

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