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Three New Rs- Recycling, Regeneration and Renewable Resources

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A flagship education and training scheme, set up three years ago to boost Britains supply of high level vocational skills, is taking a leading role in championing sustainable development. A survey of specialist vocational education and training centres, reveals the extent to which sustainable development is being included in the curriculum and embedded into the day-to-day running of their organisations. The survey, carried out by a team from the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA), investigated the contribution that CoVEs are making to sustainable development.

Liz Aitken, LSDAs CoVE project manager (and co-author of the report), says: This research shows how a national education and training programme is beginning to integrate sustainable development into its work. It includes examples of where the focus on sustainability is creating new courses and vocational programmes, forging stronger links with employers and developing skills for the future through leading edge, advanced practice.

Main survey findings

Almost all (92%) of respondents to the survey say that sustainable development is being integrated into their teaching and learning programmes in a variety of ways. Many are reducing their use of paper-based resources through more use of whiteboards, on-line electronic marking and other types of e-learning. Others are purchasing technology to increase recycling capacity, insulating central heating appliances, using sustainable farming methods and involving their local community more closely in addressing skills shortages. Around 85% are involving the local community by offering programmes and courses about regeneration, for instance. Examples include providing engineering training for school pupils and adult learners in the community, cooperative forms of transport and links with local organisations such as social care groups. The Genesis project at Somerset College of Arts and Technology, for instance, is building a centre for sustainable construction, using environmentally-friendly materials such as straw, timber, earth and clay.

More than three quarters are developing new facilities to meet with internal, national or international environmental standards. Examples include the purchase of low-energy equipment and the promotion of responsible use of resources by staff and students.

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Almost two thirds (over 63%) involve employers who promote sustainability principles in a variety of ways – through environmental management systems, corporate social responsibility or other sustainability principles.

Judith Cohen, LSDA regional director, Yorkshrie and Humberside (and co-author) says: Making sustainable development something tangible, instead of a woolly idealistic concept, is a significant challenge. We need to bring the concept down to earth and talk about what it means in practical terms to a wider audience, particularly employers. An important task for trainers and educators is to define the new kinds of skills that will be required and develop those skills amongst the workforce.

For the next phase of the project, LSDA will be funding three specific CoVEs to support the integration of sustainable development into the vocational curriculum in three areas of the economy – construction, agriculture and food processing. The projects will identify leading edge industrial practice, specify new or emerging skills, pilot ways of embedding such skills in education or training provision, and evaluate and disseminate findings from pilot programmes.

David Fisher, CoVE quality and development manager at the Learning and Skills Council says: Sustainability is an important part of the CoVE programme. Colleges and learning providers looking to become CoVEs must demonstrate their contribution to sustainable development and the LSDAs research shows that these plans are being put into practice. This is just one area in which CoVEs are leading the way in the further education sector. CoVEs are truly Centres of Excellence, working closely with employers to provide flexible and responsive training using industry-standard equipment and facilities.

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