EYS_ideathon_UfM young speakers

Green, blue and yellow: the colours of future skills in the Southern Mediterranean!

On 14 December 2023, delegates at the sixth meeting of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) participated in the European Training Foundation’s (ETF) final ideathon, as part of its Year of Skills journey.

This ideathon offered participants a unique opportunity to share their experiences of green and digital skills education in their countries, and to identify new and innovative initiatives to target future learning priorities. Set against the backdrop of the European Commission’s European Year of Skills, this interactive session started with a compelling video message from Frans Timmermans, former Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of the European Green Deal.

“This is the decisive decade for developing a new model for sustainable growth. How can education and training programmes ensure everybody can gain the skills needed to build greener, more digital and inclusive societies?” he said.

Colleagues from labour ministries, employment agencies and business development agencies from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco all agreed that the key to success is for governments to build strong systems that create the right conditions to support the implementation of green and digital training programmes. Policymaker “Boot Camps” focused on the professional development of decision-makers as it would help those in leadership positions make informed decisions targeting local priorities as well as national objectives. Regular training for teachers was also seen as a fundamental priority. Conducting skills gap analyses was considered a very pragmatic way to address any disconnect between skills delivery and local labour market needs, as well as helping to identify new and emerging jobs and the skills needed to do them.

As well as creating new jobs, the group emphasised the importance of “greening” existing ones. There was a significant focus on recognising the value of local expertise and traditional know-how. The group suggested that updated vocational education and training programmes should integrate these traditional techniques into their upskilling and reskilling programmes, as this would help promote a more inclusive and sustainable green and digital transition. 

Helping individuals and communities to build a green mindset was considered a fundamental parallel strategy to increase awareness of green and environmental issues. Competitions and awards organised by schools and other institutions to recognise individual and group initiatives could inspire people everywhere to make impactful changes in their daily lives. This could be supported by the media industry, both local and national, which would help to showcase the positive impact of such initiatives. To enable this to happen, the group agreed that a holistic approach to skills education and training was essential, ensuring not just technical skills were delivered, but also behavioural and soft skills.

The group also wondered whether financial benefits could incentivise change. Rewarding carbon-neutral shopping habits and providing tax breaks for environmentally friendly businesses were among the suggestions for greening existing business operations and supporting new and entrepreneurial activities.

As the ideathon neared the end, the group acknowledged that there were some challenges uniquely specific to their region.

“Green skills, yes – but blue and yellow skills too!”, they agreed, underscoring the need for skills development strategies to include opportunities and risks unique to marine and desert economies.