Despite the discussion of causes of climate change, this change requires the transition into a low-carbon economy. Cedefop’s Skills for Green Jobs report states that such a transition (…) implies structural changes across sectors and occupations as new ‘green’ occupations arise or grow in demand (…)[and] that necessitate curriculum updates or even new qualifications across education and training levels2.
On the other hand, another report on Green Skills Needs provided by GreenSkills4VET project concludes that (…) on VET side an extensive concept of sustainability does not exist (…) [there are] items which are related to sustainability and (…) it can be stated that there exists a gap between terminology and reality of sustainability on VET side3.
This short article presents examples of activities undertaken to introduce sustainability and their possible impact. Glancing over different European projects and good practices worldwide, we are seeking an answer as to why more progress has not been made, despite there being so much effort put into combining professional training with the needs of a transitioning economy.
In 2016 – 2019 the Jagiellonian University in Kraków was one of the key partners of a large scale Erasmus+ Capacity Building project – Green Skills for Sustainable Development (SUSDEV) aiming at promotion and implementation of a “green culture” in Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation. The project targeted various stakeholder groups: from kindergartens through higher education, up to professionals from various sectors of the economy (food industry, land management, ecology). One of the issues we discussed was the “positive feedback” between students and the workplace.
If students are aware of the importance of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), they can influence their workplace environment during work based learning periods by promoting “green culture” among professionals
On the other hand, they can learn about implementation of SDGs by watching applications of the circular economy in practice. Our consortium also developed policy recommendations which were passed by Kazakh and Russian partners to their national authorities.
These recommendations included:
- A systemic approach to sustainability issues is needed at all levels
- National policy on implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should be not declarative, but factual and transparent. Evidence-based approach should be adopted.
- The State should ensure synergy of Sustainable Development-related initiatives and provide top-down support for bottom-up initiatives
- Collaboration of all sectors of education (from kindergarten to universities to 3rd age), and with VET, to ensure SDGs should be implemented and supported; and Green competency requirements should be incorporated into educational standards
- Information campaigns raising awareness of SDG among wider public should be organized and supported by the State, with active participation of all stakeholders, including NGOs
- Young people have a particularly important role in promoting SDGs. Pupils’ and students’ initiatives should be promoted, students associations should be supported in their SD oriented activities.
A good example of measures we proposed in SUSDEV is provided by the Australian Green Skills Agreement (GSA) from 2009. It is a document introducing a systemic approach towards sustainable development in Australia. The engagement of VET institutions and stakeholders is a crucial part of achieving the transition to a low-carbon economy (Fig.1).
(…) Australia’s transition to a sustainable, low-carbon economy (…) will involve changes to how we do things individually and collectively(…). These changes will require new skills, the application of existing skills to new technologies and practices, and new ways of thinking, working and doing business across all areas of the economy and society.
Hence, for the implementation of this agreement a special group has been convened. The group consists of representatives of the Australian state and governance bodies, industry and all levels of education and training. This is a good example of a holistic view on the matter, and a systemic approach towards changes. The support for transition from different players makes this change feasible to achieve both in the economic and social dimensions.
Successful acquisition of green skills through work based learning can be an important factor of introducing “green culture” in society at large. It can work in two ways: from professionals to apprentices and from apprentices to professionals
However, a real, not declarative support from national and regional authorities is needed and bottom-up initiatives of young people should be supported. Various sectors of education and training should be interrelated and be ready and willing to cooperate for the achievement of SDGs. Professional Higher Education can play a key role in the process, acting as an intermediary between various sectors and stakeholders groups and accumulating and promoting examples of good practices (such as the Australian GSA experience). Last but not least, all education and training providers should be aware of the importance of green skills in curricula and professional standards.