AAC2022, Apprenticeships, Climate Change

Apprenticeships in green skills sectors require joined-up thinking

22 Mar 2022, 8:00

Apprenticeships can only meet our green skills needs if we follow the lead of employers, and link up across government departments, writes Jennifer Coupland

Apprenticeships and technical education are vital to train people for two million green jobs targeted by government by 2030. This is a great opportunity for business to take advantage of the innovation and talent we have available in this country to help tackle climate change and set us on the road to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Making sure current training offers are future-proofed will help, but we will also have to improve our understanding of how the economy will change and what new skills will be needed.

Predicting future skills needs is notoriously difficult – but the Institute is in a great position to lead the way.

We need deep conversations on whether the existing skills offers are right and what needs to change. We can weave insights and market intelligence from the thousands of employers we work with into occupational standards that shape apprenticeships, T Levels, and higher technical qualifications.

There’s huge demand from young people to learn these green skills

Our employer-led green apprenticeships advisory panel (GAAP), which launched last year, is working at pace and is already producing impressive results.

Its role is to identify how existing apprenticeships serve new green jobs, or could be made greener, and where new apprenticeships could be created to address emerging skills gaps.

Its immediate impact can be seen through the expanded sustainability business specialist apprenticeship to help a business in any part of the economy become more sustainable.

The role used to focus only on agriculture, but we’ve broadened it for all areas of the economy following panel members’ guidance.

Further important work is being done to develop a low carbon heating technician apprenticeship that will support the rollout of heat pumps across England.

No new petrol and diesel cars will be allowed after 2030, so it’s really important to improve training for technicians to build and maintain electric vehicles.

National Express, which is moving to an electric and hydrogen fleet from 2030, is a good example of an employer informing our work. They’re helping make the existing bus and coach engineering technician apprenticeship, which recognises emerging technologies, more sustainable.

Other GAAP priorities include apprenticeships to support more sustainable food production, animal welfare, carbon zero construction, maintenance of wind turbines, and green finance, which enables businesses to invest in projects that support better environmental outcomes, following recommendations by the Chartered Banker Institute.

This needs to be promoted and supported across government. I know from my career with multiple departments how important it is that thinking is joined-up.

That’s why we are working closely with the Department for Education’s Unit For Future Skills. We also fed into the cross-government green jobs taskforce and will, for example, fully support its call to get more smaller employers involved with training young talent at a local level.

There’s no room whatsoever for complacency

We’re united in the shared belief that apprenticeships and technical education will only meet the nation’s green skills needs by following the lead of large and small employers, who I know from countless conversations view sustainability as a priority.

We also know that there’s huge demand from young people to learn these green skills, with half of 18-to-34-year-olds expressing a desire for a career that helps protect the environment.

The GAAP, which is extending its remit across technical education, has made a good start but there’s no room whatsoever for complacency.

Rest assured the Institute, government, employers, and the whole FE sector will do everything in our power to ensure skills training plays its full part in putting the economy on a greener footing and helping to save the environment.

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One comment

  1. I fear this is an example of greenwashing, with no evidence nor metrics to measure whether it has any beneficial impact on the environment.

    I’m not comfortable at all with labelling certain apprenticeships as being ‘green’ as it creates a two tier system and ultimately is nothing more than words.

    Skills inherently are not ‘green’, it’s the application of those skills that is important.

    So labelling a Data Analyst standard as being a green ‘supportive occupation’ is largely nonsense as not all jobs will be supporting demonstrably sustainable outcomes. In fact, most won’t.

    Similarly, even an Arborist isn’t intrinsically green as many forestry practices are not beneficial to the environment and are simply providing raw materials for consumers. Very little forestry is about preserving non commercial woodland and maximising carbon uptake.

    There needs to be development of ethical and responsible behaviour that helps drive the application of skills and resources, which applies to all occupations, not just the lazy labelling of a few standards.