BLUEPRINT Model - Training and job opportunities

Summary notes

This page aims to provide insight and inspiration from the BLUEPRINT to a Circular Economy Project (BLUEPRINT project) and industry leading organisations. Its objective is to support local authorities to take steps to support a circular economy through training and job opportunities. This page will:

  • Define circular economy jobs and opportunities for growth.
  • Provide an overview of relevant legislation for England and France.
  • Detail the role of local authorities in supporting circular economy training and job opportunities.
  • Describe training opportunities for businesses, schools and residents to support the development of circular skills.
  • Share insight on the BLUEPRINT training programme.


Climate change continues to be an important topic of discussion across the world, with the circular economy increasingly seen as a solution to this global challenge. As part of The Paris Agreement (an international treaty on climate change), countries around the world agreed to work towards reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to ‘net zero’ by around 2050. Both the UK[1] and France[2] have committed to this target.

A shift towards more circular jobs is considered an important step in achieving a fairer, more resilient economic system, as recommended by the European Union, governments and various research organisations. Jobs in some carbon intensive industries are likely to be affected by this shift, particularly industries focused on mining and processing raw materials.

Research by WRAP, ReLondon and Green Alliance continues to demonstrate that the circular economy, if supported by government and local authorities, can help to level-up the economy. Between 2014 and 2019, circular jobs were estimated to have increased by 19% in the UK alone[3], with growth in activities, and therefore jobs, that support a circular economy likely to continue. ReLondon reports that there is already a spread of circular jobs across both new and traditional activities[4].

Before reading about training and job opportunities arising from the circular economy further, it is recommended that your local authority completes the BLUEPRINT Baselining Activity. This will help you assess how your local authority is currently performing with regards to a circular economy. The BLUEPRINT Baselining Activity supports local authorities to identify areas where they are already performing well and identify areas of opportunity to improve circularity.

Circular economy jobs

It is common to find references to circular economy jobs, as well as the more generic ‘green jobs’. The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee described green jobs as “jobs which are needed to deliver the Government’s wider long-term environmental objectives. This includes jobs in enhancing biodiversity and the circular economy, as well as net zero”[5].

A report by ReLondon categorises circular economy jobs as core circular jobs, enabling circular jobs, and indirectly circular jobs[6] and includes jobs in reuse and repair, logistics, and digital technologies as just a few examples. For jobs to be considered fully circular, a role would need to offer decent conditions for workers in terms of wages, safety, and access to trade unions and technologies, as well as gender inclusion and equality[7]. Industries such as waste management, construction and digital services are mentioned as examples where the need to ensure these conditions are met is particularly important.

Growth of circular economy jobs

The circular economy links with resources, materials, production and distribution processes, marketing and logistics, with the opportunity for circular jobs across many sectors. These jobs spread from low-skilled to more specialist roles and can be accessible to all regardless of age and background, or geographic location. According to WRAP, in the UK, circular economy jobs increased from 470,000 in 2014, to 558,000 in 2019. That is a 19% increase in circular jobs in a five-year period[8].

Some circular economy jobs are new, such as jobs managing reverse logistics of products and materials from consumers back to distributors. Some existing jobs have expanded tasks, as is the case for companies selling goods that are now introducing a rental option, such as in the clothing and technology industries. Sectors such as waste management, recycling, repair and refurbishment have long provided roles that have circular activities within their remit – but there is a new awareness and understanding of the potential for growth in circular jobs.

Impact of circular economy jobs

Circular economy jobs provide benefits that are not limited to job creation, but include economic savings linked to reusing resources. This can be from reuse, reduced costs from decreased use of raw materials, and through sharing business models such as ‘products as a service’. A study from the European Commission on 21 businesses adopting circular economy measures resulted in new jobs alongside economic savings.[9]

To fully appreciate the impact of the circular economy on jobs, it is helpful to review the results of the detailed analysis carried out by BLUEPRINT partner, EcoWise in 2021. For the Waste flow and scenario analysis of circular economy solutions and potentials in France and England, EcoWise calculated the impact of circular economy jobs as tonnes of waste prevented, and tonnes of products reused, repaired, remanufactured, refilled, and recycled. More impact is recorded with actions higher up on the waste hierarchy. The final estimate for job potential in the UK is between 14,600 and 42,500; in France it is between 29,000 and 90,400 jobs.

Read the full Waste flow and scenario analysis of circular economy solutions and potentials in France and England report, to find out more.

Legislative background

The European Union and national governments have set their own targets to reach net zero between 2030 and 2050, requiring industries, local authorities and residents to reduce their emissions.

In France, the Anti-waste law was adopted in 2020. This law aims to support the transition to a circular economy by tackling waste from the design stage and changing the way goods are produced, sold and used. In addition, the law encourages reuse and repair, and supports charities working in these sectors. The Anti-Waste law has delivered radical policies, such as the ban against the destruction of unsold (non-food) products and the repairability index. The law is directly supporting the aim of creating 70,000 new jobs for people in need. Financially, funds collected via the Extended Producer Responsibility scheme create a solidarity reuse fund that supports organisations promoting reuse. In their review of the French law, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation outlines that “several EPR schemes will financially contribute up to 5% towards the fund, which will be worth EUR 50 million.”[10]

In the UK, the government has committed to support circular jobs through the Net Zero Strategy published in 2021. It aims to achieve two million green jobs by 2030, through low carbon industries, the development of a skilled workforce and with strong links with education. This is also seen as a levelling-up opportunity not to be missed.

Circular economy training opportunities for local authority employees

Local authorities can support the creation of circular job opportunities by working with local employers. Ideally a local authority will have a dedicated circular economy team or officer responsible for carrying out engagement with businesses on the circular economy. This could also be met through expanding existing roles such as roles in economic development.

Training for local authority employees

Training on the circular economy can be valuable for employees across the local authority, either as part of wider staff learning or as ad-hoc courses delivered by an external provider. It is important to promote participation across different teams and functions to place the circular economy at the forefront of any planned activity. Training and development opportunities are often raised in employee satisfaction surveys. A greater understanding of what the circular economy is and how it can support officers in their roles is likely to provide environmental, social and economic benefits for the organisation.

Circular Economy Playlist

The Circular Economy Hub at Essex County Council is a small working group set up to find out about colleague understanding of the circular economy and activities that already support a circular economy. The findings are used to highlight good practices already circular across the organisation, as well as helping to remove barriers to circularity – such as the knowledge gap on what the circular economy is – through colleague training and communication.

By working with Learning and Development colleagues, a Circular Economy Playlist has been made available to all employees. This links to training modules and videos that aim to provide employees with greater understanding of the circular economy.

Carbon Literacy Training

Circular economy training has strong links with an organisation’s net zero activities and aims to provide a deeper understanding of the environmental costs of everyday activities. The Carbon Literacy training for example, which many local authorities, including BLUEPRINT partners, offer to their employees, is an accredited training scheme run by the Carbon Literacy Project. It can be tailored to the needs of an organisation, offers certification through participation and submitted pledges, and is open to employees from across the organisation.

External training opportunities

The Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation provides publicly available resources covering all aspects of the circular economy. Some resources are tailored to learners such as for 13-18 years old, higher education students, and teachers. There is also guidance available that applies circular principles to settings such as university campuses.

At the ReLondon Academy, local authority officers are offered a suite of free of charge and paid-for courses. These present a practical take on how to embed circular economy principles in action plans and for specific sectors such as procurement. Officers are encouraged to network and exchange advice with other learners.   

Support for businesses

The government recognises that different workers will be affected in different ways, with some jobs disappearing and others expanding; hence the need to work closely with businesses and supply chains to ensure the right skills are in place[11]. Local authorities are best placed to provide this connection on a local level.

Investment in activities – such as retrofitting in schools and social housing, electric vehicle charging, flood management and climate adaptation – can be the engine behind the expansion and demand for circular jobs. Local authorities can also provide valuable support to businesses through grants or training resources geared towards developing the skills needed to achieve circular jobs. In doing so, they support the creation of new jobs in their areas. There may also be opportunities to offer training for residents, to support people in having the right skillset for these newly created circular jobs.  

Engaging with social enterprises

Social enterprises often offer work experience and opportunities for staff and volunteers who are in the process of acquiring skills for employment and may benefit from circular economy training. Local authorities can support social enterprises by providing training, directly, via external training organisations, or by alerting them to training opportunities in the local area or online.

Brighton & Hove City Council’s Circular Economy Club

The circular economy is at the heart of Brighton & Hove City Council’s Economic strategy and operations. The city council supports and encourages (yet is totally independent from) the local Circular Economy Club (CEC). The CEC is made up of entrepreneurs, community groups and social enterprises that work together to make the circular economy a reality in Brighton & Hove. Their presence and collaboration ensure that a market exists whenever there is the demand for circular products or services.

Essex Net Zero Innovation Network

Another example of a public-private partnership deriving from a local authority strategy is the recently formed Essex Net Zero Innovation Network. Essex County Council supports this network made of businesses, universities, SMEs and community groups.  By creating a collaborative space and offering business support, the local authority facilitates innovation to reach net zero.

The Essex Climate Action Commission

The Essex Climate Action Commission (ECAC) launched in 2020 to advise on how to tackle climate change and to support Essex to achieve net zero by 2050. It has over 30 members including councillors, academics, businesses and representatives from the Young People’s Assembly. The ECAC initially assessed Essex’s emissions with a baseline exercise and provided technical reports covering areas such as waste management, land use, the built environment and transport.

Support for schools

Having a workforce with the right skills for the job market also requires a connection with schools. Sustainability and circular economy topics can be embedded in the school curriculum from a very early age, and connected with multiple subjects such as science, maths, geography, citizenship, and design and technology, to name a few.

Resources are available for primary schools, secondary schools and home-educated children alike. Free programmes are available to teachers with lesson plans, pre-recorded assemblies, videos and photos, as well as challenges for the whole school, the eco-council or a class to carry out.

Schools can attain awards by submitting evidence on how they have overcome challenges, achieved improvements (such as reduced waste in the school), or introduced new behaviours. Awards are often interlinked and achieving one can open the way to progress in another.

Fox’s waste adventure booklet

BLUEPRINT partner, PECT, developed a resource to introduce the waste hierarchy to primary school children. By following Fox’s waste adventure booklet, children could learn practical ways to reduce their waste, reuse common household items – including the very booklet, with pages becoming material for the proposed activities – before being recycled. In the second phase of the project, taking on board feedback from the children and teachers, three animations were developed to accompany the booklet.

Plastic Clever Schools

BLUEPRINT partners teamed up with the charities Common Seas and Kids Against Plastics to provide circular economy knowledge to children in primary and secondary schools in the France (Channel) England region. The charities already offered high quality, free resources on plastics in their Plastic Clever Schools programme.

By offering additional resources on the circular economy, partners gave participating schools a chance to widen their knowledge and try out useful skills. For example:

- To learn the difference between the linear and circular economy.

- Carry out waste audits.

- Identify easy-to-implement improvements with the facilities or kitchen teams.

 - And to hear about local projects and initiatives on reuse and the sharing economy. 

Visit the Plastic Clever Schools case study to find out more.

BLUEPRINT Circular Economy Training

The BLUEPRINT Partners from England and France worked together with social enterprises to create the BLUEPRINT training programme to offer the knowledge and skills needed for residents to find a circular job.

How the training was developed

In England the training was delivered by Adult Community Learning centres in Essex and Brighton & Hove, and by charities in Kent. In France, university partners UniLaSalle, Université de Picardie Jules Verne, NEOMA Business School and BUILDERS École d’ingénieurs (formerly ESITC), delivered some of the modules themselves or in collaboration with other training organisations. French local authorities are advised to liaise with their French university partners directly if they are interested in one or more of the circular economy training modules.

Who was the training for?

Anyone could attend the training; however, this was created specifically for learners who had never worked or had been out of the labour market for some time. The training also benefitted those with temporary or irregular jobs or who wanted to retrain as their job was at risk.

Promotion of the training

Apart from the partners’ own channels, the training was advertised within job centres, volunteer organisations, local authorities’ channels, social enterprise networks, apprenticeships, and back-to-work programmes.

Delivering training to learners

Online training modules were available in English and French and were offered by partner universities or training organisations with experience in supporting learners of all backgrounds and with additional needs. They were able to adapt delivery – such as offering tutor-led courses alongside self-paced courses that could be taken independently by learners in need for flexibility. Learners could select their preferred modules filtering by language, subject, delivery or location.

Results of the training

The training was completely free, and upon completion, learners received a certificate of attendance. At the end of November 2022, 1,282 learners had accessed the training programme, of which 722 belonged to disadvantaged categories. Those who completed the training were supported to continue learning in the same field, such as through completing the Certificate in Understanding Climate Change and Environmental Awareness or the Carbon Literacy training.

Additional training

In addition to the online modules offered, French BLUEPRINT partner UniLaSalle teamed up with CRESS (Regional Chamber for Social Economy in Brittany) to develop a four-month training programme, to upskill unemployed people to work in reuse centres. The training to become a Reuse Valuer Technician is both theoretical and practical and carried out as an internship with a local social enterprise. Trainees will learn how to organise a collection of unwanted goods, to manage sorting and storage, to recover and value products for the market, and find out how to raise awareness about reuse and upcycling with residents.

Research, reports and presentations

Many key organisations lead the way for a circular economy, including:

  • ADEME (the French Environment and Energy Management Agency) – provides expertise and advice to businesses, local authorities, communities, government bodies and the public to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Ellen MacArthur Foundation – provides online resources covering all aspects of the circular economy.
  • Local Government Association (LGA) – is a national membership body for local authorities working on behalf of member councils to support, promote and improve local government.
  • ReLondon is a partnership of the Mayor of London and the London boroughs to improve waste and resource management and transform the city into a leading low carbon circular economy.
  • Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) – is a climate action organisation working around the globe with governments, businesses, and citizens to make the world a more sustainable place. It shares insight and resources on a range of waste reduction, reuse and recycling opportunities.
  • Zero Waste Scotland is a not-for-profit environmental organisation, using evidence and insight to inform policy, and motivate individuals and businesses to embrace the environmental, economic, and social benefits of a circular economy.

BLUEPRINT circular economy solutions

As part of the BLUEPRINT Project, solution case studies have been collated from across England and France to create a catalogue of inspirational activities that encourage local authorities to support or run similar projects in their areas. Case studies include initiatives that aim to design out waste and pollution; keep products and materials in use at the highest value for as long as possible; and regenerate natural systems.

Visit the solution case studies to browse activities.

Presentations from the BLUEPRINT Roadshow

The BLUEPRINT to a Circular Economy Roadshow, held in May 2022, had a section specifically dedicated to skills and job opportunities. Slides from the presentations are listed below:

Onwards to: Changing behaviours

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