Countries gear up to deliver skills that drive the green transition

The complexity and vastness of the green transition was vividly illustrated at a recent global peer learning session of the European Training Foundation. At the skills development level, in just the high-polluting construction sector, there is an astonishing array of activity aimed at developing new green technologies and ensuring skills for a greening of the sector.

“Building Green – Greening the construction sector” was held as an online seminar on 26 March 2024, under the ETF Network for Excellence’s green initiative, named GRETA. The ETF Network includes 303 centres of vocational excellence from more than 40 countries – and is still growing.

Support for the  greening of vocational education and training (VET), in response to Europe’s green transition, is provided by  GRETA – Greening Responses to Excellence through Thematic Actions. The acronym is a tribute to climate activist Greta Thunberg. Through thematic actions, the members of ENE are supported to take a green approach to excellence in VET.

Thematic peer learning sessions organised by ENE’s GRETA present and share good practices. The event attracted more than 150 participants from across the world – proof of the global scope of the Network and the global interest in  greening VET  – with interpretation in French, Turkish, Ukrainian and Russian.

The construction sector is a significant contributor to pollution in Europe and the world, and is thus key to the green transition. Further, experience within the ETF Network and international research show that three out of four VET teachers believe they lack skills needed to teach, and this is especially so with green skills with their modern methods and technologies.

Teacher training in VET will be crucial to the production of green skills for the green transition. “It is evident that urgent action is needed,” said seminar moderator Susanne M. Nielsen, who is ETFs Green Skills expert and lead expert for GRETA.

Last week’s event was the second in a series of Building Green seminars. It explored sustainable materials and innovative technologies, and dived into best practice examples of occupational standards and green VET programmes for the construction sector.

Opening the seminar, ETF project manager Inna Dergunova explained that apart from GRETA’s greening VET activities, the work of the Network for Excellence includes the autonomy of VET providers, public-private partnerships, supporting centres to become more entrepreneurial, sharing innovation on social inclusion, digitalisation of teaching and learning, work-based learning and career guidance. 

The backdrop – A pressing problem

At the seminar Karsten Frøhlich Hougaard, director of the Danish Technological Institute (DTI), explained top-notch green materials and technologies for the construction sector.

According to the European Commission, the construction industry consumes about half of all extracted raw materials in the European Union. It is responsible for 35% of total waste generation, for 250 mt annual CO2 footprint from building materials alone, and for one third of fresh water used. Only 1% of building materials end up being reused.

“There’s definitely some room for improvement here.” Luckily, said Hougaard, the EU has launched ambitious goals and initiatives. The ultimate goal is to be climate neutral by 2030.

DTI research has discovered a “huge appetite” for materials with less climate impact, but there are barriers including access to materials, price and lack of testing. “Lack of knowledge is also a big issue. Developing new skills and competencies is crucial for meeting climate requirements, including knowledge of resource efficiency, sustainable construction techniques, regulation standards, and digital tools supporting monitoring and quality assurance,” Hougaard said.

The construction value chain and skills implications were described by Rainer Gerke, an external expert at GIZ, the German Development Agency. GIZ has explored construction-related topics, focusing in particular on green intelligence and the broader construction industry.

Gerke presented the example of Baku’s White City project in Azerbaijan as a potential benchmark for sustainable construction, and stressed the need for other innovative approaches and collaborations between industry, government and education to drive green progress.


Ireland’s new FET skills box 

A skilled workforce is vital for innovation and for the green transition, but the skills pipeline is impeded by confusing information on training and opportunities for the green sector. 

A project aimed at streamlining career guidance was detailed by Jo Cahalin, manager of the Future Skills Unit within Education and Training Boards in Ireland, which represents 16 education and training board countrywide. 

The project, which launched last week, targets both schools and workers and has two elements. The first is a physical skills box that contains career charts and other materials such as posters and reflective postcards for learners.  

The second, substantive element is a digital mirror that uses QR codes on the skills box materials that lead people to a digital library where they are able to search and find full details of courses and an online application facility. “It brings people from a very general overview down to the specifics for each programme,” said Cahalin. 

“The Ireland project is bemusing in that there’s an absolute plethora of information and multiplicity of sources for career guidance information,” she said. “What we didn’t have was the overview and the ‘unknown unknowns’.” If a student or a career guidance teacher was not aware that there is wind turbine maintenance training, for example, it would not be easy to come across.  

Skills for sustainability in Slovenia, Moldova and Canada

Occupational standards and green VET are the nuts and bolts of green skills training for the construction sector, and there are good practices underway in several European countries that may usefully be shared.

Occupational standards and TVET training in Slovenia were discussed by Barbara Kuncic Krapez, a senior consultant at CPI, the Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Vocational Education and Training, and Valentina Kuzma, senior consultant at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The chamber was one of the founders of CPI and is a social partner.

“Following the 2030 Agenda, European Green Deal and European Sustainability Competence Framework, we identified 10 key areas of sustainability that are important for us to integrate into VET qualifications,” said Kuncic. Through these 10 areas of sustainability, frameworks for 39 sectors were developed.

The competence framework for construction has 10 areas, each with two dimensions – general awareness and sector-specific competencies – with standards overseen by the Sector Committee for Construction and Mining. Said Kuzma: “This is our basis for future work, how to integrate sustainability competencies into the occupation standards and later on into the qualification.”

Lilla Zestrea, head of the lifelong learning department in the Centre of Vocational Excellence for Construction in Moldova, informed that since 2016 more than 500 people have taken courses in Green Building areas such as green concrete, wood construction, thermal insulation, renewable energy and technology integration. Zestrea shared insights from the training and how companies have been involved in training on green topics and share work experiences. “Creating links between educators and companies and encouraging interaction is fundamental for a successful training,” she said.


Judi Varga-Toth is sustainability manager at the Colleges and Institutes Canada or CICan, a large post-secondary education network representing 140 further education institutions. CICan has a teacher training initiative to support climate action that European countries can learn from.  

“We have many examples in Canada of buildings on campuses that produce more energy than they use, due to the way they are built. This is exciting, but the reality remains that most of the instructors within the trades are not familiar with these techniques and technologies,” she said. 

New faculty training modules cover climate literacy, decolonisation and four trade-specific topics – electrical, carpentry, landscaping and HVAC – heating, ventillation and air conditioning. The modules are delivered via user-friendly content developed in collaboration with colleges countrywide, integrating greener approaches into trades. 

A global VET knowledge bridge

In its final stages the seminar heard about BILT – Bridging Innovation and Learning in TVET – which aims to create a global knowledge bridge that supports technical and vocational education and training (TVET) stakeholders across Europe, Africa and Asia-Pacific. It aims to address challenges in TVET systems arising from technological, social, environmental and workplace changes.

The project is being implemented by UNESCO-UNEVOC – UNESCO’s centre for technical vocational education and training – with the support of BIBB, the German Federal Institute for Vocational Education Training.

BILT team leader Kenny Muscat and project manager at BIBB Katharina Engel spoke about the expert group for BILT that is about to start its thematic focus on building and construction. The aim is to connect TVET stakeholders to learn from each other’s innovations to improve the TVET systems in these regions and it will cooperate and exchange with GRETA.

Next peer learning meeting

The next peer learning session of ‘Building Green Greening the construction sector’, organised in the frame of ENE, takes place on 18 June. More information will be provided on the ETF website.

More information can be found here:

BUILDING GREEN – greening the construction sector. Moving forward in provision of skills for the green transition | Open Space (



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