How important are education and skills for the green and digital transitions?

The green transition, and symbiotic digital transition, mean rethinking the way we design, develop, produce, market and distribute goods and services across all sectors of the economy. It means the replacement of fossil fuel technologies and the demise of industries, like coal mining or petroleum extraction, dependent on them. It forces people to rethink how we live our lives and consider the environmental impact of everything we do.

This will mean the disappearance of some jobs, the creation of others – not necessarily in the same sectors or the same geographical locations – and the transformation of many more. Motor mechanics, for example, will have to learn to repair and service electric vehicles. Construction workers will have to learn to install solar panels and geothermal heating systems. Farmers will have to learn to apply precision agriculture techniques.

Environmental awareness will become a requirement of all jobs, and indeed an aspect of 21st century citizenship.

Skills for greening

2023 is the European Year of Skills which underscores just how critical the role of skills have in our future. The green transition will not happen if people do not have the awareness, knowledge and skills to drive it forwards. And that means big changes in education, training and lifelong learning. Environmental awareness will need to be mainstreamed in all curricula. Vocational and higher education will have to adapt to the emergence of environmentally friendly technologies in a wide range of professions. Courses will have to be developed for new professional profiles linked to greening, such as energy auditor or sustainability officer or environmental engineer.

Learning for all

The green transition accentuates the need for education and training systems to transition towards lifelong learning. New mindsets and new skills will be needed not only for people entering the labour market, but people of all ages and stages in life. And this regardless of their social and economic status, educational attainment, abilities or disabilities, or geographical location. The green transition is about more that specialised technical professions, it is about everyone having a stake in sustainability, and the green transition must therefore be inclusive of all members of society.

A global challenge

Launched in December 2019, the European Green Deal aims for zero carbon emissions by 2050 through respecting the earth’s resources, the health and well-being of its citizens, and stimulating economic growth through embracing the challenges of the twin green and digital transitions. To be successful, sustainability efforts cannot stop at geographical borders. As a global leader the EU’s green ambitions have worldwide reach, which are supported by programmes and activities, including those on education and skills development, through its external relations and assistance. 

In the EU’s 2021–2027 budget, the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) which has a budget of €79.5 billion allocated a 25% spending target on climate change which goes hand in hand with all targets, specifically with human development and migration which have targets of 20% and 10%, respectively. Indeed, the EU’s most recent strategy, the Global Gateway, highlights the interconnectivity of the most pressing issues of our time and aims to boost smart, clean and secure links in digital, energy and transport sectors and to strengthen health, education and research systems across the world dedicating a budget of EUR 300 billion of investments.

The ETF and the EU neighbourhood

The ETF’s work is devised and delivered in the context of the European Union’s policies and the EU's external relations priorities in support of the Agenda 2030 and the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is supporting partner countries in the EU’s neighbouring regions to prepare for the green transition through the reform of human capital development systems.


This above is an extract from the ETF's  Learning Connects newsletter No 11 which focuses on skills for the green and digital transitions. Click here to subscribe

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