Green Jobs

GreenComp The European Sustainability Competence Framework

Image: GreenComp Cover
© EC2022

The European Union has published GreenComp:
The European Sustainability Competence Framework.

The development of the competence framework is one of the policy actions set out in the European Green Deal as a catalyst to promote learning on environmental sustainability in the European Union. GreenComp identifies a set of sustainability competences to feed into education programmes to help learners develop knowledge, skills and attitudes that promote ways to think, plan and act with empathy, responsibility, and care for our planet and for public health.

This work began with a literature review and drew on several consultations with experts and stakeholders working in the field of sustainability education and lifelong learning.

They say the report forms a “framework for learning for environmental sustainability that can be applied in any learning context. The report shares working definitions of sustainability and learning for environmental sustainability that forms the basis for the framework to build consensus and bridge the gap between experts and other stakeholders.”

GreenComp comprises four interrelated competence areas: ‘embodying sustainability values’, ‘embracing complexity in sustainability’, ‘envisioning sustainable futures’ and ‘acting for sustainability’. Each area comprises three competences that are interlinked and equally important. GreenComp is designed to be a non-prescriptive reference for learning schemes fostering sustainability as a competence.

WHAT ARE GREEN JOBS AND GREEN SKILLS?

It is encouraging to see a rise in initiatives and projects around Green Jobs and a seemingly considerable interest in jobs seekers and young people seeking employment in Green Jobs.

However a prevailing problem is to define just what jobs these are?
Chris Webb, a UK Higher Education careers professional publishes a weekly Newsletter, The Week in #Careers, providing a “round-up of all of the news, views & developments in the #Careers sector that busy professionals need to know!”
Last week was Green Careers Week in the UK, “giving the careers community an opportunity to reflect on a topic that is growing ever more prominent in our work with clients, employers and other stakeholders.” And the newsletter featured a Guest Blog from Anna Sidoti about Green Jobs, “what we think/know they are and why it matters!”
Anna addressed the problem of defining Green Jobs:

The definition of a green job varies. That’s part of the problem – we don’t know exactly what this Labour Market will look like because it depends on how you define a green job, and there is no international consensus (yet). Green Jobs can be defined by:

  • Industry involved in climate transition (for example, energy infrastructure)
  • Occupations directly involved in climate transition (for example, wind turbine technician);
  • Skills required for climate transition, such as sustainable design, energy efficiency or environmental awareness (for example, workers involved in developing, generating, storing, transmitting and distributing energy generated from renewable, net-zero emission sources or “clean energy supply”).

The OECD has recommended that there is an international consensus on this. The closest I can find is the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) broad definition of green employment: ‘green jobs’ are those involving activities such as community adaptation to climate change, and they nod to decent jobs as well. Check out the diagram below – green jobs are the ones in the striped area.

So what do we know?

Well, Jobs and Skills Australia released a report on October 3rd, entitled The Clean Energy Generation: workforce needs for a net zero economy. Critical green jobs identified in this report are in engineering (all fields), electrical trades, such as electricians, telecommunications and air-conditioning and refrigeration techs. We need engineers, although not as much as we need environmental scientists. The report also outlines the need for lesser-known careers like mechanical fitters, marine pilots and food scientists. They anticipate a 40% increase in these roles by 2050, primarily in regional areas.

The UK’s UK Green Jobs taskforce report predicts significant GDP growth and 300,000 new jobs by 2050 linked to green technology. The critical roles identified in the UK are similar to Australia. This report identifies other green jobs required to power the energy transition – construction supply chain jobs,(planners, architects, engineers, heat pump installers) hydrogen jobs (pipe-fitters) and automotive jobs (Electric Vehicle mechanics).

The problem is that it is not really a switch from not Green Jobs to Green jobs but rather that skills are changing and jobs increasingly involve what might be called Green Skills.

The European Classification of Occupations, Skills ad Competences (ESCO) have developed the European taxonomy of skills and occupations providing a common language on occupations and skills, and also the relationships between them, specifying which skills are essential or optional for a specific occupation. In 2022 they released of the updated version of the taxonomy to support the green transition of the labour market.

“As workers need a skill set that can respond to the need of reducing emissions in working practices,” “they say, “the Skills / Competences pillar has been enriched with the additional information at skill level to distinguish green skills and knowledge concepts. This means that within the whole dataset of ESCO skills, some can now be filtered as green. ESCO also provides information such as their reusability type and are linked with occupations. All the concepts are translated in 27 languages and are available free of charge in different formats.”

A total of 571 ESCO skills and knowledge concepts are labelled as green. This includes: 381 skills, 185 knowledge concepts, and 5 transversal skills. The full list of green concepts is available in the ESCO portal. The green concepts aim to cover the activities of the European labour market. As such, skills range within different economic sectors, from energy production and distribution to manufacturing processes, from waste management and pollution standards to auditing and impact assessment, from research to education.

The work from ESCO is valuable, especially in showing the Green Skills are needed in may jobs and occupations and not just the obvious ones. Yet the challenge remains of how to use ESCO’s classification system. ESCO have recently published a new report, Jobs for the Green Transition, Definitions, Classifications and emerging trends, hoping to deal with the issues of defining Green Jobs and Skills.

The report introduces a novel taxonomy for green jobs based on four pillars: inputs, outputs, processes, and job quality. This taxonomy aims to provide a practical framework for assessing and comparing case studies, supporting policymaking in this area. Furthermore, the report highlights recent strategies and policies, both at the EU and national levels, focusing on skill development for the green transition and addressing social aspects to protect vulnerable groups. It suggests that a more integrated approach, considering the environmental impact of work processes, outputs, and supply chain inputs, is essential for promoting green job creation while phasing out brown jobs. 

In the Erasmus+ Career Pathways project, in which Pontydysgu is a [partner, we are attempting to bring together different data sources developing a Dashboard with quarterly Labour Market Information for three different regions, pathways to education and training in Manufacturing, the Tourism and Hospitality sector and Textiles. The Dashboard will also provide details of relevant training opportunities and, where relevant will identify Green Skills. It is hoped we can develop better linkages between skills demand and education and training opportunities for both those seeking initial and continuing education and training, those seeking new jobs and education and training at a regional level.

Not just the Green Transition but also the rapid changes to labour markets through the introduction of Artificial Intelligence, require a faster and better integrated approach. We hope the Career Pathways Project can help this development.

EU votes (narrowly) to Support Nature

The EU has narrowly passed a key law to protect nature – a core pillar of the Commission president Ursula von der Leyen’s European Green Deal – after months of fiery debate and an opposition campaign scientists criticised as misleading.

The nature restoration law will place recovery measures on 20% of the EU’s land and sea by 2030, rising to cover all degraded ecosystems by 2050.

Lawmakers decided against “killing the bill” by only a dozen votes in Strasbourg on Wednesday but watered it down on several points. They will send the proposal back to an environment committee before thrashing out details with member states.

“It’s a huge social victory,” César Luena, a centre-left MEP from Spain in charge of the proposal, told reporters. “This is a law on behalf of nature. It’s not a law against any person whatsoever.”

Career pathways

Training and Skills for the Green Transition

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash.

The European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP)  has published a Briefing Note on the Green Transition. Vocational Education and Training, they say, can provide the skills needed for greening jobs and in turn help shape them.

Cedefop is only one of many international bodies predicting that the transition to a green economy is not only intrinsically intertwined with digitalization but will lead to dramatic changes in the labour market with new skills needed across sectors and occupation. Apprenticeships are seen as a key way of providing such skills.

A Cedefop skills forecast scenario predicts strong job growth in sectors such as water supply, waste management and construction. “By the end of the decade”, they say, “almost 200000 jobs will be created in the electricity sector alone.” It is hoped that the new skills demand, and the decline in jobs in the ‘brown’ sector may alleviate labour market polarization between jobs at the high end and low end of the qualification scale and also prompt better gender representation.

However, despite growing attention to skills for green jobs, there remains limited understanding of what those skills are and even of what a green job is. Attention tends to focus on new innovation, for instance in wind technologies. But in reality, the greater impact will be in changing and additional skills needed in existing jobs. These are more problematic to define. While it is relatively simple to see that many jobs will require new transversal skills – for instance in the use of technology, communication skills and logistics –, it is far harder to define new technical skills that will be needed in different occupations.

Cedefop believes regions and cities will act as hubs for the green transition and indeed there seems in many countries to be an increasing focus on skills training  led by partnership bodies between local governments, employers, trade unions and educational institutions at that level. Cedefop, like OECD are also promoting the role of apprenticeship programmes, particularly seeing the importance of work based learning and the flexibility of apprenticeships in adapting to innovative practices for greening jobs.

The Erasmus+ funded Career Pathways project is trying to develop systems that can identify different training opportunities and pathways for those seeking to move to new green jobs, or to develop the green skills that will be required in future employment.

CEDEFOP say:
Vocational Education and Training can even spur societal change by fostering innovation in green technologies, processes and products, thus deepening learners’ understanding of environmental issues and ultimately strengthen­ing their civic engagement (8). The emerging ‘green­fluencer’ movement already shows how passion for promoting sustainability can contribute to the green transformation of societies.

What are green skills and Green Jobs?

As part of European Vocational Skills Week on 17 May Pontydysgu participated in a webinar on “CAREER PATHWAYS AND GREEN ECONOMY

The initiative is part of the Erasmus+ project Career Pathways promoted by TecMinho from Portugal and with a partnership of organisations from Portugal, Spain and Greece.

The webinar aimed to start a debate on how the green economy and in particular “green skills” can favour career pathways that are more oriented to current and future job demands, focusing on improving qualifications as a way to access “better” jobs.

The objective is to develop career pathways to future jobs and green jobs, working together with Education and Training organisations, employers and career and employment professionals.

The project has been designed to pair technical researchers and developers in Spain, Portugal and Greece, together with education and training organisations in each of the countries.

As part of the webinar George Bekiaridis and I gave a short presentation of Greene skills for Green Jobs, outlining our technical approach to the project.

Although there has been growing interest in most countries in promoting green skill and green jobs, collaboration and development has been held back by a lack of agreed definitions. What is a green job in one country may not be in another. And a major challenge for our project was to decide what jobs in which sectors and what skills? We needed to agree this before we could start identifying courses which could lead to opportunities for employment in green jobs. And equally education and training providers need to know what skills are needed for green jobs and what green jobs are in demand in their region.

Fortunately our job has been made much easier by development at ESCO. ESCO is the multilingual classification of European Skills, Competences, and Occupations. And ESCO have been running a project on Green Skills and Knowledge Classification, who released their first results in January, 2022. 571 skills and knowledge concepts have been identified as green and further work has identified which of these skills and knowledge concepts are essential for an occupation and which may be options.

The methodology for developing this taxonomy is interesting. Initial work was undertaken by experts in the occupational areas. The data resulting from this expert work was then used to training a Machine Learning based AI. The AI then assessed all of the ESCO database of over 6000 occupations and identified which required green skills. The results of machine learning investigation were finally validated by assessors.

It is interesting to see a broad classification of the skills and knowledge concepts. While perhaps predictable that 27 per cent would be information skills, it is notable that 14 per cent are in assisting and caring.

Even more intriguing is the sectors in which Green Skills and Knowledge Concepts are employed. 42 per cent are in engineering, manufacturing and construction jobs. But a surprising 19 per cent are in health and welfare and 17 per cent are in arts and humanities.

ESCO have also been looking at career pathways and at what occupations require only low levels of skills and experience and which require advanced skills and experience. They have adopted the ISCO skills level classification developed by the International Labor Organisation and distinguishing between technical occupations, higher technical occupations and professional occupations.

This slide shows what different levels of qualifications and education and training might be required for the different skills and knowledge concepts. This also shows the need for education and training pathways providing different routes to advancement between the different levels.

The ESCO Green Skills and Knowledge Concepts will lie at the heart of the tools we are developing for the Learning Pathways project. For each green occupation we will be able to present a description of that occupation and the skills related to that occupation. ESCO data is readily available through an API in every European language.

The next thing we want to present as part of a dashboard for different regions in Greece, Portugal and Spain is the real demand for these occupations. There is little point in colleges offering courses if their is no employment demand at the end of the training. But equally there may be demand for skills and knowledge which education and training organisations are not yet providing. This data comes from the Cedefop OVATE European observatory, which is providing near real time data based on job advertisements. Unfortunately there is as yet no API to this data. We have however been granted access to the unpublished “data lake” underpinning OVATE and are looking at how we might extract relevant data at a regional level.

The final part of the Learning Pathways toolbox is to identify courses at a regional level which can provide education and training for the Green Skills and Knowledge constructs. That might seem easy but it is not. There are presently no standards for how courses are classified and described, despite some initiatives at European level. Initially we are developing our own descriptor and will work with three education and training organisations in each of the three project partner countries to bring that data together as a testbed for our tools.

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