Dec 13th, 2012

Green skills development – essential for the transition to green growth

The transition towards a green economy and restructured eco-friendly industry applying clean production processes, efficient use of resources as well as new technologies is not only demanding environmental regulations, essential is a competent workforce with adequate skills including “green skills”.

With the transformation to a green economy the term of “green jobs” is mentioned in the international discussion very often. But what are “green jobs”? In the first sense it might be associated with workplaces in green or brown sectors, as the wood processor, gardener, fishermen or waste water technician. In the second sense jobs in the renewable energy sector might come to mind. But for the definition it has to be considered that any job is at least indirectly of significance for the environment. On every workplace - in agricultural, industrial and service sector – energy, material and other resources are used. It’s the worker in any job who deal with energy and resources at their workplaces efficiently - or not. Efficient use of energy and resources on the job is the task of every employee. Efforts towards green economy lose their effect or fail when the personnel do not have the necessary competencies to fulfil the tasks and responsibilities for adjusted more efficient production processes and the installation, operation and maintenance of (new) technologies. According to this TVET plays an essential role for the transition to a green economy.

Germany: Well trained workers - the basis of success

The major economic and political changes in Germany towards sustainable development are based firstly on political willingness and economic innovation for environmentally friendly production processes and technologies. There is also a rather high environmental awareness in the German population. But that’s not all. Asked, why German companies are so successful in this segment the president of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), Prof. Hans Heinrich Driftmann, answered: “The main reason is well trained skilled workers.” Because it’s the skilled workers who install, operate and maintain the new technologies and procedures.

Integrating “green skills” in existing occupations

To train and retrain workers to apply resource efficient and low-emission work methods at existing workplaces (e.g. as electricians, mechanics, metal worker, construction workers) the demanded occupational competencies should be reflected in training offers. Many of the skills needed for low-carbon workplaces can be found in existing occupations. From international experience, important is the balance of generic skills, green skills and specialized job-related skills. Accordingly concepts and practices to operate in low-carbon industries needs to be integrated in respective training modules, meaning existing occupations should be “greened” by integrating generic green skills.

Upgrading of existing occupations for new technologies

If it is coming to new technologies such as wind power plants or solar power stations also already existing occupations are asked. The mechatronician, electrician and mechanical worker are the main profiles needed to operate a wind power plant.

Workers needs to be upskilled based on the “traditional occupation” to apply new technologies. In environmentally close sectors (such as renewable energy, waste water), no entirely new skill sets are necessary (see CEDEFOP „Skills for Green Jobs“, 2010). Application of new “green” technologies is evolving as skills topped up in existing occupations. This topping-up is most likely to be characterized by additional training to familiarize workers with new technologies.

Production of wind power plants in Germany

Strengthen Environmental Awareness in general

Environmental issues should be integrated into vocational training and any educational programme the form of generic green skills (such as reducing waste and improving energy and resource efficiency). The environmental awareness of thousands of young people could be strengthen and therewith influencing to behavior of the whole society. The importance of developing human resources for sustainable development through training and education was highlighted also at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002. The education sector, including vocational training, was judged to play a key role in making people aware of ecological connections. A better understanding of ecological connections is deemed to be the basis for responsible handling of natural resources and sustainable development.

Within Vietnamese-German Cooperation in TVET occupations in metal work, industrial electrics/electronics and mechatronics are supported, which forms the basis also for e.g. constructing, installing, operating and maintaining machinery and plants in renewable energy sector. In further trainings of teachers/instructors beside work safety also environmental protection is addressed in the beginning of each training course, to ensure that each teacher/instructor and also the trainees take care of these important aspects.