Enabling the Transition to a Green Economy: Government and business working together might not have been a top holiday read when it was published in August. However, the government’s plan for the transition to a green, low carbon economy should be on the new term’s reading list for everyone interested in adult learning and training.
Primarily focused on business, the plan recognises the necessity to build a low carbon workforce for the green jobs of the future. However one of the challenges in developing this workforce for the low carbon economy is ensuring equity and a just transition for all. Initiatives to develop green skills will need to take into account the needs of adults already in the workforce, including those with low skills, unemployed adults and those furthest from learning and the labour market. Adults and young people will need information, advice and guidance for ‘green’ careers as well as quality ‘green skills’ provision.
Increasing take up of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects by adults is essential if they are to be included in the transition to a low carbon economy. Evidence indicates that many adults are ill-equipped for STEM related occupations; around half of the working age population in England have very low numeracy skills and many adults lack science and technology qualifications. Women are woefully under-represented in science, engineering and technology-related apprenticeships and occupations. Skills training and apprenticeships for the green economy designed and promoted in ways that counter this occupational segregation would secure more talent for industry as well as more equity. Many migrants have high level skills, knowledge and experience of work in STEM occupations they could contribute to the green economy with support for adaptation.
Organisations providing green skills training across the post 16 sector will require support to respond as developments accelerate. There will be particular challenges in ensuring that industrial development, the creation of green employment opportunities and the development of green skills training programmes and qualifications for low carbon industries are co-ordinated. Investment in leadership and management and staff training in issues relating to skills for a green economy will be crucial to support development and innovation.
A systemic approach to education for sustainable development that includes, but goes beyond, green skills would benefit society as a whole. This education would raise awareness amongst adults and develop their critical understanding of sustainability. It would also provide them with the options for making informed choices and taking action at work, at home and in communities to contribute to both national and global sustainability. It could be offered as an integral element of training and workforce development. Adult and community learning can also support this wider agenda as well as provide entry points and progression into skills and workforce development. The low carbon transition is a complex, fast developing area in which knowledge sharing and creative partnership working between all parties involved will be critical for success.
Jane Ward is programme manager at NIACE, which encourages all adults to engage in learning