Study reveals need for pan-Euro policy on low-carbon skills

by Search Gate staff. Published Mon 25 Oct 2010 19:34
Europe-wide focus needed to boost green skills

A new study provides a 'snapshot' of the environmental skills programmes available across different industries in EU Member States.

The study highlights the importance of partnerships - between public and private sector, and between different industry sectors - in ensuring the European workforce acquires the necessary skills to make the transition to a low-carbon, sustainable economy.

A previous United Nations Environment Programme study recognised that the job market will change substantially as a result of the green economic transition. Some new 'green jobs' will be created, others will be altered to incorporate environmental skills, and others will be eliminated entirely with or without substitution for greener roles.

The new study, conducted on behalf of the European Commission, argues that the transition will affect nearly all sectors of the economy and that an environmentally skilled workforce is essential. Policies to address the current skills gap are therefore required.

The study focuses on environmental skills programmes in six different Member States: Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the UK. The aims of the study were to provide a clear definition of what constitutes an appropriate environmental skills programme and to identify avenues for further research and approaches to policymaking that could improve access to environmental skills training in the European workforce.

According to the study, there is currently a wide range of different skills being targeted by environmental skills programmes due to different economic, social and environmental conditions in Member States, but different Member States vary in their performance, although this is to be expected given differing social, economical and environmental conditions.

UK policy, for example, is already proactive in linking green jobs to economic growth, with a significant proportion of its European funding devoted to green skills development. However, some newer Member States are lagging behind.

The study also found that environmental skills programmes tend to be driven by employment demand and new environmental legislation that requires staff to meet new or stricter regulation. The content of training programmes varies across industries and is often tailored to the specific needs of each company.

Industry is therefore at the frontline of developing new green skills training programmes.

The following recommendations for research and practice to promote environmental skills development are made:

• Promote exchange of best practice between businesses and other skills providers

• Provide incentives at EU and national levels to create innovative 'green teams' in large and medium sized enterprises

• Governments must cooperate with educational institutions and industry to deliver demand-driven training

• Ensure dedicated European-level funding for green skills programmes

• Acknowledge reliance of green jobs on conventional industries

• Carry out more research on the feasibility of European and national standards and qualifications for environmental skills

• Further map the environmental skills needs of different sectors

• Analyse options for incentives to promote environmental skills development among institutions and individuals.

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