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Education for Sustainable Development and the FE Workforce

Charlotte Bonner, the National Head of Education for Sustainable Development at the Education and training Foundation
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Transformed Jobs, Transformed Skills 

If we’re to meet the UK’s ambitious decarbonisation plans, achieve the 10 point plan for a green industrial revolution and do our bit to contribute to the UN sustainability development goals, both the employment and the education landscape is going to have to change considerably.

We need specialist sustainability expertise but also people from across all industries to be knowledgeable and ready to make sustainability the norm. All roles and all employers can both contribute to and help solve sustainability challenges. In short, all jobs can and should be green jobs.

All Learners as Green Learners

To fully equip people for their future jobs and careers, all learners can and should be green learners. Education is an enabler – a lever to help achieve sustainability goals. Learners need to be developing knowledge, skills, values and agency as core competencies so they can create positive change in their lives and their work whether they go on to be sustainability specialists or not.

Decent and Inclusive Green Jobs

A focus on the current workforce, as well as young learners, will also be vital if the transition to a net zero economy is a just one. We need to ensure workers in polluting industries and those hit by the economic disruption of the Coronavirus pandemic aren’t left behind and have an opportunity to ‘build back fairer’. All new green jobs created should be good quality, decent jobs.

Education for Sustainable Development

For sustainability to be seen in this way, as a central pillar of our education system, a lot needs to change. Curriculum, regulation, funding, policy, professional standards: all can adapt so education for sustainable development (ESD) is prioritised by providers and professionals.

The Further Education and Training Sector

There are strong parallels between the level of systemic change required to achieve our sustainability goals and to achieve equality, diversity and inclusion goals. The environment and sustainability sector has been identified as the second least diverse among over 200 professions in the UK. The FE and training sector has a critical role to play in improving the appeal, accessibility and relevance of careers in climate change, and sustainability, within the communities it serves.

Investment in the FE workforce

Significant investment is required to achieve this but what needs to be prioritised is investment in the FE workforce.

As the recent Skills for Jobs white paper recognised, a strong focus on staff recruitment, retention, training and development is the key that unlocks excellence in the system. Soon to be published research undertaken by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) with nearly 850 members of the FE workforce shows that 63% feel they haven’t had adequate training to embed sustainability in their work and this figure increases to 74% with teaching staff and educators.

The FE Workforce and ‘Education for Sustainable Development’

We need our educators across all subject specialisms and occupational pipelines to have the confidence, capability and capacity to develop their own ESD skillsets and this needs to be a priority. This isn’t just so they’re able to train those moving into jobs that support green growth but also to ensure there isn’t a bottleneck creating skills gaps and a lag between what’s being taught and societal and industry need.

Continued professional development in ESD outcomes and how to achieve them is needed for all staff working in the FE sector. This also needs to be included in initial teacher education and occupational standards.

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The ETF ‘Education for Sustainable Development’ Strategy

As the expert body for professional development and standards in FE across England, ETF is working with other sector bodies to develop our ESD strategy so we can design, develop and deliver Continuous Professional Development for staff in different roles from across the sector to support ESD uptake. We’re also anticipating the inclusion of ESD competencies in future revisions of the professional frameworks we oversee.

The FE sector has a vital role to play in contributing towards our current sustainability challenges but also the opportunity to be recognised as a sector that takes the lead across national and global challenges.

Recommendation 1

FE sector bodies should embed Education for Sustainable Development in curriculum, regulation, funding, policy, professional standards and frameworks.

Recommendation 2

FE providers should adopt whole-organisation approaches to Education for Sustainable Development, including investment the CPD of their staff.

Recommendation 3

FE practitioners should work collaboratively to explore and embed Education and Sustainable Development in their work and teaching.

Charlotte Bonner, the National Head of Education for Sustainable Development at the Education and training Foundation

Racing to Net Zero – the role of post-16 education and skills

The UK needs comprehensive jobs and skills plan to successfully support and drive the transition to Net Zero.  

This is the conclusion of Campaign for Learning on publishing a new collection of expert views – Racing to Net Zero – the role of post-16 education and skills,

This pamphlet brings together experts on Net Zero and post-16 education, skills and employment policy. The sixteen contributors offer real insights about how post-16 education and skills policy can support the race to Net Zero here in the UK.

Contributors to Racing to Net Zero:

Shaun Spiers, Green Alliance Greening the Economy, Greening the Environment
Stephen Evans, Learning and Work Institute A more ambitious Net Zero ‘Economic, Jobs and Skills’ Plan
Paul Nowak, TUC Workers, Skills and the Net Zero Economy
Duncan Brown, Emsi The Demand for Green Jobs and Green Skills
Ewart Keep, University of Oxford Labour Market Intelligence for Green Jobs and Green Skills
Jane Hickie, AELP Filling Green Jobs with Level 2+ Apprenticeships
Calum Carson, ERSA Filling Green Jobs through Employment Support Schemes
David Hughes, Association of Colleges FE Colleges, Upskilling, Reskilling and Net Zero
Susan Pember, HOLEX Adult and Community Education and Net Zero
Nick Hillman, HEPI Universities and Net Zero
Bill Watkin, Six Form Colleges Association 16-18 Education and Net Zero
John Widdowson, Former FE Principal 16-18 Level 3 T Levels and Net Zero
Rebecca Conway, Federation of Awarding Bodies Net Zero and the ‘Level 3 and Below’ Curriculum
Charlotte Bonner, Education and Training Foundation Education for Sustainable Development and the FE Workforce
Adrian Anderson, UVAC Green Jobs, Apprenticeships and Higher Technical Education
Victoria Hands and Stephen Peake, The Open University Education for Sustainable Development in Higher Education
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