Employment: manufacturers expect a less painful ecological transition than anticipated


Posted Nov 24, 2022 11:10 AMUpdated Nov. 24, 2022, 11:59 a.m.

The myth of the ecological transition that will knock down industrial jobs and impose a painful change in skills may have died. The majority of forecasters anticipate the need for a massive effort of professional retraining to adapt the made in France to the green industry. The best example? Workers specializing in thermal car engines: overtaken by the electric wave, they will have to relearn everything, or almost.

A very comprehensive study on the subject sheds much more nuanced light. Produced by the observatory of Opco 2i, the joint body responsible for training and work-study programs for 32 professional branches of industry, it certainly does not call into question the consequences of the transition on the activity of companies, forced to reduce their carbon footprint in all directions. “They did not wait,” recalls the head of the observatory, Fabien Boisbras.

Very few obsolete professions

As for those who work in factories, on the other hand, we are far from the big night, at least on the horizon of the study which is 2025. Unlike another transition, digital this one there, very few new professions are to be expected on an inter-industrial scale. Rather an evolution of the skills attached to current professions, and still not all. What’s more, a very limited number of professions will become obsolete.

“The ecological transition will have no impact on the business gesture of production. However, operators must be made aware of the issue, as we have done with safety,” reads one of the many testimonials from employers, which sums up the general feeling well.

For Fabien Boisbras, two reasons explain the disconnection between what is announced by forecasters or politicians and what is anticipated by manufacturers. First, a job can be new to a company when it exists elsewhere. Secondly, the amalgam that is made between profession and associated skills. “The skills mobilized can evolve without the job changing at all,” he says.

Green energy buyer

Among the eight major job families identified by the observatory, two are the most affected: purchasing and engineering/R&D. Between 50% and 70% of the associated macro-skills (scientific knowledge, for example) must be reinforced, or even lead to specializations, in the purchase of green energy for example.

Three other families will be affected to a lesser extent, up to 40% of their macro-skills: logistics/waste/safety/quality, business and technical-commercial engineering, method and industrialization. Two, finally, will be relatively less (10% to 30%), installation-maintenance and manufacturing.

All professions concerned, five macro-skills to be strengthened stand out because they concern a very high number of employees in industry. It includes, for example, knowledge in terms of quality, health, safety and the environment to control hydrogen. This will also be the case for six other macro-skills but which concern fewer people (mastery of environmental standards, etc.) and ten even less widespread (optimization of consumption, etc.).

Formation: the fog

To take the example of thermal engines, if foundries are suffering, continues Fabien Boisbras, it is because orders for mechanical parts in the automobile industry have decreased. “Their market is changing. However, there will always be a need for moulders-corers to manufacture mechanical parts for other markets, with higher added value, in offshore wind power for example”, he assures us.

In this context, companies know that they will have to activate the lever of continuing education (which itself must green its content at a forced march), but are moving forward a little in the fog. “Rapid technological and regulatory developments, the systemic nature of the transition complicates the identification of training needs”, observes the Opco 2i Observatory.

Last conclusion which also calls into question a certain form of pessimism: the ecological transition will go hand in hand with an increase in the workforce in industry. This will especially be the case for engineers, researchers, supervisors or senior technicians. The attractiveness of these qualified profiles will benefit from this, provided that the branches make this known to young people. The situation looks less favorable for employees or operators.

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