With climate clocks set at a minute to midnight and a real sense of urgency around the much anticipated COP26, it is clear that we all have important roles to play if we are to deliver the green revolution and a sustainable future, says WorldSkills UK CEO, Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE:

Ahead of world leaders meeting in Glasgow for COP26 climate summit, I chaired sessions on green skills and green jobs at the online WorldSkills conference from Shanghai last week looking at how educators can play their part in the shift to more sustainable economies.

The Asian-Pacific region is a real powerhouse of skills and talent, which is helping to drive the world economy in terms of policymaking and in terms of economic development and change. The event was a fantastic opportunity to hear what the region is doing to develop green skills.

We heard from the likes of UNESCO, UNIDO, ILO, Stanley Black and Decker, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, as well as colleagues representing agencies from across the region including China, Philippines, Cambodia and Hindu Kush Himalayan Region.

Kicking things off in my session was Lee Hee Dong from the WorldSkills Champions Trust. A former WorldSkills Champion in computerised manufacturing who now works for Samsung, Lee said his generation needed to lead the way in taking responsibility for making the world greener and urge industry to do the same. He said young people want to contribute to a greener economy and to find fulfilment working for companies whose green values align with their own.

Highlighting how responsibility to act on climate change fell to all of us – governments, businesses, public bodies and individuals – he explained how he is adapting his work at Samsung to help ensure their products are more durable and contribute to long-term sustainability.

In the wider conference debates, it was clear that there are significant policy and regulatory efforts to decarbonise economies being driven by governments and public bodies at global, regional and national level. The new carbon emissions trading scheme for the energy sector in China and the development of renewable energy such as hydro power in Hindu Kush Himalayan region are two such examples.

However, the demand for green skills is stalling because of a lack of supply and the problem of skills mismatches. The problem is compounded by a paucity of data on what different sectors need to drive change and develop the green jobs of the future. It also became clear that Covid-19 has forced companies’ priorities to shift, resulting in a delay in focussing on the green jobs agenda.

There are clearly huge challenges ahead in both the short and long term. However, they also provide huge opportunities for TVET sector players to step in with training programmes that identify and align with green business needs.

A need for tighter workforce planning for green skills was highlighted as key in ensuring they are in line with economic change and green jobs development. Guangzhou College in China, for example, was very clear on how it was adapting its curriculum to respond to business needs and was using WorldSkills standards to develop high quality skills.

We also touched on opportunities to develop pan-regional solutions such as qualifications for green skills that are recognised between countries and can help promote labour mobility.

Here in the UK, the Westminster government has made much of its green credentials and last month launched a Net Zero Strategy that said its ambitious plans to develop green jobs relied on having a sufficiently skilled workforce. Like anywhere else in the world, employers and educators in the UK are working together to identify and develop the skills needed to support action on climate change and deliver the jobs of the future.

WorldSkills UK is not only developing a new competitions-based programme in renewable energy to help develop the high-quality skills needed in this vital sector of our economy, but also exploring with our partners how to embed green principles, such as energy and resource efficiency, across our training programmes in sectors like construction and automotive.

As the world focuses on the COP26 climate summit and beyond, WorldSkills and its partners around the world will continue to make progress on this important agenda and revisit the green skills revolution at its annual conference in Shanghai in 2022.

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