From education to employment

Is sustainability the fourth functional skill?

It was impossible to not be aware of #COP26 and the clear momentum gained across the world, as our leaders finally embraced the real climate challenges laying ahead of us. And COP27 is hot on its heels.

What is even clearer from that event, is that governments and citizens are genuinely concerned about the effects on the climate and expect positive action in every aspect of work and life by governments, organisations, and individuals.

There is rapidly growing demand for environmental sustainability and green skills in the workplace, as well as a consumer revolution that is seeing spending switching at an incredible rate to sustainable businesses. 

Those who are under 40 are now the most active in addressing climate change, and what’s more, they make up a growing proportion of employers’ customers and our workforce.

Employers need to listen to our future dominant workforce

Employers need to listen to the generations that are our future dominant workforce.

Therefore, we must provide our young people and adults with the resources they need to combat climate change. We are seeing employers explicitly demand green skills. 

Green skills are in demand for all job postings. So, even those of us who won’t work in what most might consider a ‘green job’, will need to develop, and apply sustainability and eco literacy skills to our existing roles. 

In job adverts there has been an 142% increase in green skills knowledge in the last five years, and this increase is accelerating at pace.

Climate education is no longer optional

Climate education is no longer optional, it is essential and linked to every part of our personal and professional futures. Educators, with their huge influence and reach across society, are uniquely positioned to lead on the rapid social and economic changes we need to respond to the threat of climate change. However, they need training and curriculum resource to deliver.

Education and skills organisations are ready to lead on empowering people to live, work and lead in a more sustainable society. This skills demand is rapidly going to become essential and urgent across all sectors and major factor in employability as regulatory and consumer pressures kick in, becoming the new functional skill that is needed across sectors and roles.

The fourth functional skill

It is becoming clear that alongside the expectation that everyone should have core skills in literacy, numeracy and digital, it is now vital that sustainability and low carbon is included.

We have recently seen frameworks from IFATE for every apprenticeship standard, and a strategy from the DfE for all learners. This presents a unique challenge, that the roll out of other functional skills did not.

Sustainability skills presents a major challenge to educators and institutes as there is a huge gap in training, capacity building, knowledge, skills, resources, frameworks, and programmes available to the sector to lead on this essential mass upskilling to support them to deliver practical sustainability skills to prepare learners for the future.

It is an exciting time of change, and we will continue to offer support to individuals, education and skills providers and employers to deliver the fourth functional skill.

Green Skills Summit 2022

This is why The Skills Network are delighted to sponsor AELP’s Green Skills Summit

The summit – taking place on 3 February in London – will bring organisations from across the FE sector together to discuss the green skills agenda.

It promises to transform an awareness of green issues into the practical steps needed to drive the demand for them from learners and employers.

To find out more and book your place, please visit the AELP Green Skills Summit event page:

The Skills Network offer a Level 2 qualification in sustainability that is also suitable for educators seeking to gain professional qualifications in sustainability. This enables them to lead on embedding sustainability within their delivery.

Mark Dawe is Chief Executive of The Skills Network, an online learning and skills training provider that is underpinned by market-leading technology. The Skills Network are the sponsors of AELP’s Green Skills Summit 2022.

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  1. Are hot responses to sustainability, wind turbines, electric vehicles, the end of gas boilers, Drax’s yearly £800 million subsidy, etc, likely to cool after the reality of rising costs pushes many voters into fuel poverty?

    Neil Richardson