The European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) has published a Briefing Note on the Green Transition. Vocational Education and Training, they say, can provide the skills needed for greening jobs and in turn help shape them.
Cedefop is only one of many international bodies predicting that the transition to a green economy is not only intrinsically intertwined with digitalization but will lead to dramatic changes in the labour market with new skills needed across sectors and occupation. Apprenticeships are seen as a key way of providing such skills.
A Cedefop skills forecast scenario predicts strong job growth in sectors such as water supply, waste management and constriction. “By the end of the decade”, they say, “almost 200000 jobs will be created in the electricity sector alone.” It is hoped that the new skills demand, and the decline in jobs in the ‘brown’ sector may alleviate labour market polarization between jobs at the high end and low end of the qualification scale and also prompt better gender representation.
However, despite growing attention to skills for green jobs, there remains limited understanding of what those skills are and even of what a green job is. Attention tends to focus on new innovation, for instance in wind technologies. But in reality, the greater impact will be in changing and additional skills needed in existing jobs. These are more problematic to define. While it is relatively simple to see that many jobs will require new transversal skills – for instance in the use of technology, communication skills and logistic s, it is far harder to define new technical skills that will be needed in different occupations.
Cedefop believes regions and cities will act as hubs for the green transition and indeed there seems in many countries to be an increasing focus on skills training led by partnership bodies between local governments, employers, trade unions and educational institutions at that level. Cedefop, like OECD are also promoting the role of apprenticeship programmes, particularly seeing the importance of work based learning and the flexibility of apprenticeships in adapting to innovative practices for greening jobs.
The Erasmus+ funded Career Pathways project is trying to develop systems that can identify different training opportunities and pathways for those seeking to move to new green jobs, or to develop the green skills that will be required in future employment.
Vocational Education and Training can even spur societal change by fostering innovation in green technologies, processes and products, thus deepening learners’ understanding of environmental issues and ultimately strengthening their civic engagement (8). The emerging ‘greenfluencer’ movement already shows how passion for promoting sustainability can contribute to the green transformation of societies.