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Spotlight on Sustainability: Where we are and where we’re going 

David Jones, NCFE's Verticals and Horizontals Manager
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NCFE is starting the New Year with a focus on some of the bigger issues facing the education sector and society in 2022. To kick off this series we’re looking at sustainability, how the education sector has responded and what NCFE is doing as an educational charity and leader in vocational and technical learning to make sure we embed sustainable practices across our products and services.  

The environmental debate is rightly commanding immediate focus – and education is key to helping people understand and manage the effects of climate change. Looking back to last year, there was a huge amount of work from organisations of all sizes linking sustainability and education. From the magnitude of COP26 to the more specialist work of The Campaign for Learning, support for sustainability in education has never been greater.  

At NCFE, we’ve been working hard over the past 18 months to make sure we’re offering learners and providers every opportunity to put green skills at the front and centre of their thinking. We’ve developed some fantastic sustainability-focused qualifications and will soon be revealing further details of our plans for the year ahead. Throughout 2022 and beyond we will be working closely with our partners and committing to weave sustainability across our portfolio. 

But for now, we’re looking back at 2021 and reflecting on just some of the work being done across the industry to raise awareness of climate change. 

Key achievements from 2021 

In November last year, the Department for Education (DfE) published its draft sustainability and climate change strategy for education and children’s services. It was launched with a vision to make the UK the world-leading education sector in sustainability and climate change by 2030, an ambition that NCFE fully supports.  

Back in October, the Association of Colleges (AoC) announced its Green College Commitment, which set out the critical role of colleges in achieving net zero and biodiversity goals. Further climate- focused research was commissioned, with important interventions from key players in the sector such as the Education and Training Foundation. Their research highlights the vital role the FE and skills sector has to play in combating climate change. 

The most high-profile environmental event of 2021 was undoubtedly COP26 taking place in Glasgow last November, with education being a key theme throughout. The UN summit on climate change action covered a range of crucial topics including climate education and youth empowerment, girls’ education and climate adaptation and how schools can shape the future. Many of these topics have set the agenda for another important year for sustainability and green thinking. 

Looking forward to 2022 

Looking ahead, there are several key dates to be aware of in 2022.

In April, DfE will publish its full Sustainability & Climate Change Strategy, followed by the publication of A net zero society: scenarios and pathways later in the year – a report which will examine how social and behavioural changes will affect our path to net zero, informing the government’s long-term strategy. 

WorldSkills UK’s Spotlight on Green Jobs event will take place 9 – 10 March, with NCFE as headline sponsors. It will bring together the UK’s leading employers and apprentices to inspire young people from all walks of life to consider the vocational pathways which will lead them to green careers.

Net Zero Week will be held from 2 – 8 July, highlighting the challenge ahead and providing expert advice and information on how we can all benefit from making changes here in the UK. And of course, COP 27 takes place in November.  

What NCFE is doing right now 

One of the key outputs of COP26 was the Glasgow Climate Pact, which highlights the need to work together to deliver greater action from a combination of thinking and doing. At NCFE, we believe that movements need collaborators and that providing learners with skills in sustainability will play a vital role in equipping future generations to collectively tackle the negative effects of climate change. 

We’re currently developing ways to complement our existing programmes and are already offering pathways for those wanting to gain a qualification in sustainability. These include: 

Green goals for the upcoming year

Our plans for 2022 are to add more products and services to our portfolio with the most imminent being the Level 3 Certificate in Championing Sustainability in the Workplace qualification. 

We also hope to see increased clarity of green jobs and pathways for transition into green roles, which are suitable for all education leavers, from young people to adults. People need to know what green jobs are and crucially to be prepared for a future where all jobs will have elements of sustainability within them. We welcome conversations around this topic with a range of stakeholders, including young people. 

The past year will be a hard one to surpass in terms of keeping sustainability high on any agenda, but we’re up for the challenge. We’re looking forward to working closely with new and existing partners and developing stronger links between government, employers, and educational institutions of all types, to make sure we maintain this momentum on sustainability.  

David Jones, NCFE’s Verticals and Horizontals Manager

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