People are leaving high-paying jobs in multinationals to work on climate: Terra.do co-founder

As India prepares for a massive energy transition, it must skill, reskill and upskill its workforce for climate-relevant jobs, says Anshuman Bapna. Terra.do, the edtech startup he founded, wants to train 100 million people to work in 'green collar' jobs by 2030.

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Team meeting in a professional co-working space in New Delhi, India. Image:  Smartworks Coworking / Unsplash

On India’s Independence Day on August 15, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the government’s policies have opened up new employment opportunities in the form of green jobs. Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort in Old Delhi, he highlighted renewable energy, natural farming as well as sectors engaged in hydrogen, biofuels and electric vehicles as potential sources of employment. 

While India’s “jobless growth” – a phenomenon where economic growth fails to create employment opportunities – has become a cause for worry for India’s policy-makers, reports suggest the ongoing energy transition could create millions of new jobs. Thanks to India’s promises at the COP26 climate summit and other global platforms such as the World Economic Forum 2021, India’s green jobs space is expected to grow substantially, with one recent estimate by the Delhi-based think-tank Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) suggesting that 3.4 million short- and long-term jobs could be created in just the solar and wind energy sectors.

A host of related areas would also need skilled workers such as energy efficiency, climate-resilient urban design and sustainable transport. 

At the same time, Indian companies are under increasing pressure to perform on the environmental, social and governance (ESG) front, with regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India having mandated Business Responsibility and Sustainability Reporting requirements for the top 100 listed companies by market capitalisation. More and more companies are hiring for positions such as sustainability officer.

With the challenge as well as opportunity of creating green skills in mind, India’s central government set up a Skill Council for Green Jobs in October 2015, aiming to have manufacturers and service providers in India’s “green business” sector make an industry-led push for imparting skills for “green jobs”. The council recently launched an online job portal to connect enterprises with skilled professionals in the renewable energy space. Over the last decade, various universities and educational institutes including the famed India Institutes of Technology (IITs) have launched both degree and vocational training programmes in the green jobs segment. 

Anshuman Bapna, Terra.do

Anshuman Bapna, co-founder of Terra.do

However, the opportunities for professionals to upskill and reskill outside of conventional educational institutions, with their long-term commitments, remain few. This is the gap that climate career platform Terra.do, founded in 2020, aims to fill by training 100 million people for climate-related careers by 2030, in India and around the world. With the climate crisis being one of the most urgent problems the world faces. Terra.do believes all jobs will become climate jobs going ahead – from software to finance to marketing, not just renewables and electric vehicles.

Its courses and applications offer education/skilling, networking and career development. In June, the climate career platform secured an additional $5 million in funding and launched its free mobile app. 

Eco-Business spoke to co-founder Anshuman Bapna about the opportunities and challenges for preparing a cadre of green workers in India. 

Does India have a policy on training workers for the energy transition? What kind of government support is available, and is it sufficient?

The Skill Council for Green Jobs is the key initiative of the central government, which is aligned with the National Skill Development Mission and is promoted by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The Green Tamil Nadu Mission promises green jobs in the state of Tamil Nadu, while the Delhi government’s 2022 budget also promised green jobs. At the city level, the Mumbai Climate Action Policy is an ambitious policy which could create green jobs across all industries. 

Additionally, back in 2009, the Indian government had requested all states and union territories (federally-administered regions) to submit their Action Plans on Climate Change. This signals the right intent, and the central government has called for more action, such as the Prime Minister’s emphasis on green jobs in his Independence Day speech this year. 

What are the types of educational and skills opportunities available for those looking to enter or transition into the climate space?  

While India’s need and demand for climate professionals is humongous, not many skilled people are available. For instance, many climate-skilled software engineers are required. India has software engineers but the climate skills gap needs to be bridged. Universities remain the primary sources of climate, environmental or sustainability graduates. For other disciplines beyond science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), such as humanities and the arts, which intersects with climate, graduates also need to become familiar with climate issues.

Climate learning should be for everyone, across age groups, geographies, sectors and industries. And climate learning needs to be differentiated according to the needs of the learner, as it cannot be “one-curriculum-fits-all”. It is crucial for everyone, including the elderly, to be taught about climate, even though they are not part of the working population. Children, on the other hand, are learning about climate change in school . Some of our influential climate activists are young people. There is a need to cater to the needs of all of these people, especially in areas the conventional education sector cannot provide for. 

Soon, there will not be a “climate” space – development in every industry and sector will be led by climate change.  

How do you make your work stand out when there are so many climate-related course offerings?

Terra.do caters to only working professionals across sectors and verticals that are climate-concerned. Children and youth will learn about climate change in schools and colleges before they enter the workforce. But those in the existing workforce are unable to pause their work and study at a university, nor will a generic course help them. Each course at Terra.do is designed specifically for skilled individuals – including oil and gas professionals, designers, and more. Additionally, every learner also has access to more than 500 climate experts across industries and sectors The learnerscan have full access to the climate community that is constantly growing. 

What kind of jobs exist in the vast climate space that you aim to train people for – the jobs that Indian companies need trained personnel for? 

Terra.do believes that every job will become a climate job in the days to come, and the world needs as many people as possible. And we need all the skills. 

A climate job could be any position in a company or organisation that is providing solutions for the climate or biodiversity crisis. This includes:

  • Energy companies building renewable infrastructure
  • Electric vehicles (EVs)
  • Agri & forestry companies that are reducing fertiliser use, methane production from cows, crop burning, etc., or are increasing regenerative farming practices, forest cover and substitutes
  • Manufacturing companies building cement/steel/shipping with much less carbon

It includes software development – for example, a job looking at helping EVs optimise battery life, analysing remote sensing data to detect forest cover, helping insurance companies analyse fire risk. It also includes finance – how to bring capital to carbon offsets, help finance EV purchases etc. 

In that sense, you can see that almost any job can be a climate job. And in each of these companies, we need marketing, human resources, legal, finance and procurement roles to become a “climate job”. They have to help companies decarbonise, make products more sustainable and provide support to communities affected by climate change. 

Soon, there will not be a “climate” space – development in every industry and sector will be led by climate change. However, we still see increasing need for climate conscious professionals in technology. Technology will ensure scaling of our climate actions. 

Can you give some examples of the key sectors in this space that are ready for a transformation? 

Experts say we have all the solutions we need to reverse or mitigate climate change. What is absent is intent and collaboration.According to the ‘State of Career Change from Oil & Gas to Renewables’ report we published, 68 per cent of mid-career professionals in the oil and gas industry are looking to switch roles or industries, and around 60 per cent of them are looking for career development in the renewables sector.

More than 50 per cent of them say their lack of experience and skill is the key obstacle to entering the renewables sector. Additionally, losses in jobs in oil and gas are more than job gains in clean energy. 

The rate at which the sectors of clean energy are growing is still not appreciable, and slower than what the planet needs.

Are green collars paid better in India than other professionals?

It is too soon to say anything definitively, if we are looking at India. But those with exceptional interdisciplinary skills will be better paid. 

However, pay is not the only criteria job seekers are looking at. The trend is now people look at job satisfaction and how best an individual’s job can serve their life goals as well as society. Globally, people from high-paying jobs in some of the largest multinationals are leaving their jobs to work on climate.

Are more people signing up for Terra.do’s services for job opportunities or education? 

At Terra.do, we don’t treat jobs and education as two different verticals. Our co-founder Mayank Jain, who is also the chief technology officer, ensures our platform takes care of this intersection. Kamal Kapadia, our co-founder and chief learning officer, steers the development of pedagogy to ensure that learners understand the climate system and the career economy. 

Our app is designed to build a climate community and network of climate enthusiasts. Learning happens on the app even if one is not part of any of our courses. During job fairs, all users have open access to companies hiring talent. No ads, no bots. “Climate Jobs” are open for all – companies can recruit through the app and our frequent job fairs across the globe. 

What have you achieved in the two years since you were set up – in terms of offering training, placing those who have been trained in suitable positions, reception from industry? What about investor interest? 

Our programmes have grown, especially our flagship course.  

  •     In 2021, the applications saw a 388 per cent increase in numbers from 2020.
  •     For 2022, the forecast (based on monthly average rate of application) is 18 per cent year-on-year growth. 

Our platform has brought together a wide-ranging community of professionals from critical climate industries such as energy, mobility, and regenerative agriculture and top experts in areas such as policy, science, and finance. Our immersive, cohort-based climate learning programmes boast several thousand graduates from more than 25 countries. Through Terra.do’s job fairs, talent drops to employers, and rich network, our members have found roles in hundreds of leading climate tech companies and Fortune 100 sustainability teams and founded dozens of climate start-ups. Terra.do has also had investors transition to green investments. 

Not everyone comes to Terra.do for a job, some are venture capitalists who come to learn about climate and make their investments greener. Some learners skill themselves with climate knowledge and bring about sustainability and climate action in their existing roles. 

Which geographies do you focus on? 

Terra.do is a global climate education and career platform and we have been operating remotely since inception. Our focus is global and we have learners and app users from across the globe. However, the majority of our users are from North America, Europe and India. 

By 2025, we want to create a flywheel of learning, jobs and communities for each of the biggest sectors involved in the climate transition – energy, agriculture, transportation, finance – and have 10 million-plus users involved as learners, job seekers, employers and climate experts across the United States, Europe, parts of Asia and Africa.

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