Developing green and digital skills in Eastern Partnership countries
How can education and training ensure learners gain the right skills to help make the green and digital transition a reality? This was the question Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights asked, in an introductory video, to the participants from Eastern Partnership countries at the European Training Foundation’s (ETF) Year of Skills ideathon, on 3 October 2023.
This second ideathon was a unique brainstorming opportunity to capture the voices of key stakeholders and government officials from Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova, and understand what green and digital skills development means in their countries. With the European Year of Skills as the backdrop, this interactive event enabled the countries to discuss the role of education in supporting the region’s transition to greener, more digital and inclusive societies.
“To make sure we succeed in fighting climate change, we need a complete change of mindset in the way we deal with skills and training,” Nicolas Schmit in setting the scene for the ideathon.
In opening the discussion, the ETF’s Daria Santucci invited all participants to highlight their countries’ most significant progress and areas where further development is needed.
“We really want to capture your ideas as to what the future priorities should be and how they could be implemented”, she added.
The discussions revealed that Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova shared much common ground in regard to the many digital vocational education and training (VET) initiatives being implemented across the region. All agreed that digital education “is no longer a choice but a necessity” and, as a consequence, digital literacy and competences are increasingly featured in all training programmes. Much focus has been placed on digitalisation, not only of the teaching and learning process, but also in all aspects of the educational management system.
With regard to green education, the countries shared the successful implementation of green modules into their respective teaching programmes. The concept of ‘thinking green’ was considered to be essential to maximise the impact of environmental and climate education, and all acknowledged the importance of leading by example. Incorporating as many initiatives and extra-curricular activities as possible with children from a young age, such as planting trees and recycling, can only help increase awareness and build engagement in addressing the challenges of climate change.
How to develop the skills needed for the future
Firstly, emphasis was placed on developing new training programmes to facilitate the ‘greening’ of existing jobs as well as preparing the workforce for new and emerging green jobs and sectors. Building the skills to support the expansion of renewable energy systems, such as photovoltaic and thermal energy, as well as improving energy efficiency processes in the construction sector, were highlighted as top priorities for each of the countries.
An integrated approach to the professional development of teachers, to support the effective teaching of new green curricula and modules, was also considered essential.
Nino Revishvili, Team Leader for Institutional Strengthening at the Skills Agency of Georgia, believed ecological awareness centres to be an important way to support the upskilling and reskilling of teachers. In schools, dedicated areas or ‘green corners’ were viewed as an engaging way in which even the youngest learners could start building a green mindset.
The importance of a lifelong learning perspective was underscored by all countries as they shared their vision of a more digitally inclusive future.
Galina Rusu, State Secretary at Moldova’s Ministry of Education and Research, highlighted the recent launch of an innovative collaboration with the University of the Third Age that enabled adult learners to access essential digital skills. The development of other such partnerships could help achieve a digital transition that is both fair and inclusive.
Tural Ahmadov, Head of International Cooperation at Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Education and Science, emphasised how digital literacy projects targeting both school and university students were expected to positively contribute to long-term economic performance. Ahmadov also shared the concept of technologically and socially innovative ‘smart’ villages, aimed at improving local economic development in the country’s rural areas.
“Your voices today form a vital part of the green and digital skills puzzle. The ideas from this ideathon will be added to those captured in subsequent ideathons to form a showcase of knowledge, initiatives and expertise from around the EU’s neighbouring countries”, ETF Santucci, in closing the ideathon