A competence framework for the green transition
Interview with Tatjana Babrauskienė
The green transition will require new mindsets and new skillsets. But what new knowledge, new attitudes and new capabilities will people need to make the green revolution happen? We speak to Tatjana Babrauskienė, a teacher, trade unionist and member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), who is promoting an own-initiative opinion of the EESC on an EU strategy for enhancing green skills and competences for all.
1. Why do you think skills are so important for greening economies and societies?
The Declaration adopted in Rio de Janeiro back in 1992, reaffirming the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, adopted at Stockholm on 16 June 1972, was very promising, but life has shown that good decisions alone are not enough, their implementation depends not only on the political will of governments but also on the ecological awareness of the whole society, our ability to understand and address ecological, environmental issues.
Artificial intelligence, Internet technologies have already caused revolutionary social changes in economies and societies and not only in the field of communication. Rapidly evolving pharmaceuticals, biotechnologies and other scientific developments are having a similar impact. In the past, all the radical changes in human society were primarily due to changes in production efficiency - from wood, stone to steam, electricity and factory automation. This is how the industrial revolutions took place. Today, changes in science and technology accelerated by green and digital transition will change not only production processes but also the economy, culture and society itself. All societies are facing or soon will face the economic and social problem, which is the dilemma of how to make the best use of limited, or scarce, resources. It is, therefore, crucial to understand and incorporate the components of green skills at an early stage not only in the development of new technologies but also in skills for making the best use of them. Only in this way the development of science and technology will achieve its main goal - to serve humanity and maintain a sustainable environment and democratic development. Everyone needs to understand how the use of resources will change, how society will adapt to climate changes, limited resources and ever-changing innovations. Topics such as 'green finance', 'green economy', 'sustainable development', 'circular economy', 'sharing economy' - must be understood by all, not only by professionals. The greening of economies and societies therefore should go hand in hand with environmental responsibility and green skills development.
2. Climate policies will need to support the most vulnerable regions, sectors and workers, starting from the provision of skills in formal, informal and non-formal learning. How can these be put in place?
It is crucial that all local and regional authorities from their political level step up cooperation with social partners, organised civil society and education stakeholders to adopt holistic local and regional climate strategies, starting from the provision of environmental responsibility and green skills in formal, informal and non-formal learning, translating national and EU-level objectives into very concrete and clear local objectives, based on a comprehensive local or regional approach that provides a long-term vision for adaptation to climate change and better use of financial resources under cohesion policy. These regional environmental strategies should include for instance a waste management plan, including food waste. The implementation of such strategies can be supported by the European Union’s Recovery and Resilience Facility. But there is a clear need for greater synergies between the various sources of funding at the EU, national and regional level, as well as for stronger links between public and private funding.
The European Parliament adopted a resolution on the European Green Deal and underlined that industrial strategy must include the impacts on the workforce, as well as training, reskilling and upskilling of workers and the EESC supports the regional dimension of this strategy and strong governance with social dialogue. Therefore green skills, environmental responsibility and sustainable development should be integrated transversally within the learning outcomes - knowledge, skills, attitudes and values - in every sector of education, as well as in apprenticeships, and employee training provision within and beyond the green sectors.
3. How can environmental responsibility and sustainable development be part of learning (knowledge, skills, attitudes and values) for learners of all ages?
In this opinion, we mention that there is still no dedicated international research on national strategies and curricula on environmental science, environmental attitudes and the specific development of green skills provision and assessment of such skills. Thus, the EESC calls the European Commission to enforce research on green skills and competence development within the Member States and base its strategy of environmental responsibility and sustainable development throughout education and lifelong learning on such research. We propose that a Council recommendation could follow up the suggestions of the new European Skills Agenda to focus on how to develop a green attitude in everyone, making environmental responsibility as a transversal competence in education and training across the European Education Area, and focus on equality of green skills acquisition for all ages, genders and socio-economically disadvantaged groups.
Also, comprehensive policies and funding should be put in place to support initial and continuous professional development for teachers and trainers on environmental protection as a transversal topic across all subjects and all levels and types of education and training, as well as specific training on green skills and competences. The provision of adequate professional support for teachers and trainers and relevant up-to-date teaching materials, tools, methods and instructional practices on this topic should also be ensured.
4. One of the goals of your own-initiative opinion is the creation of an EU Competence Framework for Green Skills. What would that look like?
A common framework for green skills should take into consideration three areas:
- Transforming education and training institutions for the green society and economy;
- Formulating and supporting national strategies, involving all actors, to achieve green progress;
- International cooperation framework in greening education and training.
At the skills level, such a framework should be composed of several skill components including basic skills, hard skills and soft skills. It is important to remember that green competencies are a reflective, multi-dimensional spectrum comprising dimensions such as green knowledge, green skills, green abilities, green attitudes, green behaviour and green awareness.
5. How can this opinion influence EU decision-making, particularly in the framework of the EU Green Deal? What sort of an impact might this have on countries bordering the EU?
I hope that this opinion will have an impact on EU decision-making. We already see, for example, that our call for a comprehensive EU level strategy on improving education and training on green skills and competences is now transforming into a European Commission Proposal for a Council Recommendation on education for environmental sustainability.
Tatjana Babrauskienė, from Lithuania, is a member of the European Economic and Social Committee since 2015. With a background in education, Ms Babrauskienė is head of the International Department of the Lithuanian Education and Science Trade Union. She has a long experience of advocating for skills development at European level, including involvement with Cedefop, the European Commission Advisory Committee on Vocational Education (ACVT), the European Sectoral Social Dialogue in Education (ESSDE), the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) Education and Training Committee. Besides the EU strategy for enhancing green skills and competences for all, Ms Babrauskienė has played a leading role in a series of EESC opinions on education, training and social affairs.
Let us be the eco-education leader. Let us be the first to start this strong environmental education and export our knowledge, experience and expertise to other countries bordering the EU and not only. Let us be the ones that other countries will consult in the field of education for environmental sustainability and who will invite other countries to implement green education projects.
The future EU generation needs to build confidence from an early age that it can and must be an eco-EU because it is viable. Green sector businesses, which very often have international partners, must also not be left out and wait, but themselves actively cooperate and contribute to the education of young professionals, support science and provide opportunities and tools for future professionals in this sufficiently new field to acquire practical knowledge.