Impetus to green skills for unlocking circular economy


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Authored by: Kundan Kumar, Gagan Preet Kaur

Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) systems play an important role in equipping youth with the skills required for world of work. Effectively implemented TVET is responsive to the ever dynamic skill ecosystem where in companies are constantly demanding workforce in new and emerging skills. Applying green practices in TVET can enable the skilling ecosystem to be oriented towards long term sustainability and thereby contributing to green economy.

Green Economy results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities (UNEP, 2011). Greening TVET involves imparting green skills to create green jobs which cut across all key sectors such as tourism, manufacturing, construction, textiles, agriculture and renewable energy, waste management etc.

Further, the concept embodies fostering sustainable practices in TVET to facilitate transformation towards increased resource efficiency, climate resilience and circular economy. As per United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), circular economy, while striving to create green and decent jobs, aims to minimize pollution and waste, extend product lifecycles, and enable broad sharing of physical and natural assets.[1]
World of work transitions to green and sustainable practices is pertinent for achieving sustainable economic growth as outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This transition will potentially create 2.4 crore jobs by 2030, out of this 1.8 crore jobs are directly related to the shift towards green job roles in renewable energy, energy efficiency, waste management and other resource efficient technologies. Further around 120 crore jobs would need upskilling by 2030 (ILO, 2018)[2].

Underpinning Green Jobs sector

“Green Businesses” comprising of subsectors such renewable energy, energy storage, green construction, green transportation, solid waste including plastic and e-waste management, waste water management, constitute green jobs sector: Some examples of the jobs in sector as follows:

Renewable Energy: To make transition low carbon economy, more skilled people are needed in jobs such as manufacturing and installation of solar panels, solar water heaters, inverters etc.

Waste management sector: With an unceasing growth of consumerism, waste management is a pressing issue specifically in developing and least developing countries. Skills for management of solid waste wastewater, plastic waste and e-waste are imperative to address the looming problem of waste management. Further related activities such as collection, segregation, safe disposal, construction and maintenance of septic and waste water treatment plants also require specialised skill training.

Green transportation: Emergence of new technologies such as EV, green hydrogen could have implications for employment not just in transport sector but also in sectors that provide the necessary inputs, such as manufacturing. The changes in production, structure, service delivery will contribute to increased demand of skilled labour force.

Urban farming: Due to construction of buildings, urban areas are fast losing its green lungs and ambient temperature are rising. In order to address this issue, urban farming practices such as urban forestry and roof-top gardening are rapidly becoming a trend, thereby giving an impetus to skilled workforce in specific areas.

Skill training enablers for transition towards Circular economy

Developing skilled workforce for greening activities such as conservation of irreplaceable raw materials, waste management, judicious use of energy use, pollution control is the key for driving the circular economy transition. Green jobs contribute to preserve and restore the environment in new, emerging green sectors such as renewable energy and energy efficiency[1].Greening of traditional job roles involves inculcating green practices and competencies in traditional job roles such as construction, manufacturing, agriculture and so on.Skilling for green jobs is crucial for driving the uptake of circular strategies, promoting equity and closing the skills gap. Further, sustainable enterprises through pro-environment entrepreneurial learning can lead to creation of sustainable enterprises that can contribute in addressing social, human and environmental concerns more efficiently.

Some green skilling enablers are as follows:

Green skills forecasting is necessary to anticipate the future needs for skill workforce in green technologies at national level. For informed policy making and skill training efforts, an assessment of existing needs and future demands for green skills is critical.

  • Developing training modules, qualifications for new green skills demanded sector/industry wise, this would give cues to new technologies, career pathways, upskilling/reskilling interventions required.
  • Focus on inclusion of green competencies in existing job roles. These competencies could focus on reduced environmental impact through production, use and consumption of goods and services.
  • Promoting private partnerships can play an important role in spurring research, innovation and identify market needs. Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) potentially provide a useful framework under which the public and private sectors can pool and coordinate their financial and technological resources. These resources can be used for productive implementation of green technologies through effectively nurtured green skills.

Mainstreaming pro-environment behaviours in world of work is an essential instrument for sustainable development. It imperative to inculcate the fundamentals of sustainability within the workplace and communities as an integral part of local or community-based development. This includes encouraging green practices that contribute to reducing the environmental impact of business practices thus embedding sustainability as a principle in enterprise operations.

  • Creating a pool of skilled workforce in green sectors through fresh skilling, reskilling and upskilling.
  • Very recently Hon’ble Prime Minister launched Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE) Mission, which is envisioned as an India-led global mass movement that will nudge individual and collective action to protect and preserve the environment. Such pro-environment programmes including Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME II), Grid connected solar rooftop programme are creating a large number of green job opportunities in sectors such as green transportation, waste management, sanitation and renewable energy. An integrated and systemic approach is crucial for realising the potential of green jobs sector as it promises great potential to employ trained workforce.

    Transition towards green and circular economy will trigger changes in technology, demographic trends, job market, thus creating the need for new qualifications and skillsets in green jobs sector.

    For reaping the benefits of potential job creation along with enabling implementation of climate change targets and address negative impacts while transitioning to low-carbon economies, it is imperative to deploy skill development measures and labour market policies.

    (Kundan Kumar is Advisor, Skill Development and Employment, Niti Aayog and Gagan Preet Kaur is Consultant Grade II, Skill Development and Employment, Niti Aayog)

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