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Training for a green economy: an urgent task for Europe



A Cedefop study on the skills needed to develop a low-carbon economy in EU Member States concludes that training for a green economy is urgent as part of mainstream education.

The European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) in Thessalonki, Greece has carried out study on green training in six Member States – Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Spain and the UK. Cedefop summarised its main results in July 2010 and suggested priorities for policy-makers.

According to Cedefop, every job will be green job in the future. The EU agency concludes that all education and training systems should therefore include understanding the environmental impact of an occupation. “Integrating sustainable development and environmental issues into existing qualifications is much more effective than creating new training standards,” says the report.

Skill-development strategies must:

  • Enable people to add to existing skills through training tailored to their particular needs and accessible through diverse tools and methods. At the same time, upskilling needs to be affordable and profitable. A recent UK survey found that although most electricians were keen to train in photovoltaic installation, they were reluctant to pay the training provider €2050 for the course.
  • Attract students at secondary and tertiary level into the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and develop these core skills which provide the basis of high-level low-carbon skills. The Confederation of British Industry in the UK is considering a €1100 ‘golden carrot’ for each student enrolling on a STEM degree.
  • Improve generic skills across the entire workforce – this involves both the skills required in almost any occupation and the green skills that should be part of any job.
  • Place more emphasis on training the trainers as there are not enough aware of environmental issues and able to teach new techniques. Shortages are particularly acute in agriculture and construction.

The Member States examined are all aware of the employment potential of moving to a low-carbon economy. However, none have skill development integrated into their environmental strategies and programmes. Nevertheless, national and regional governments have been supportive in developing alternative energy sources, for example wind energy in Denmark, and using them to stimulate job creation through coordinated employment, skills upgrading and innovation policies.

Regional governments appear to be leading the way in providing comprehensive and organised skills strategies and in developing successful public-private initiatives that have achieved impressive results and could be considered best practices. To exploit fully the job creation potential of the low-carbon economy, Europe’s policy-makers now need to ensure that their support for skills and training matches the focus and ambition of their strategies to promote investment in green innovation and infrastructure.

More information

Related information on the EcoAP Website