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How to support adult learners into low carbon jobs

As a result of climate change, there is a growing requirement for employability skills that are focused specifically on addressing the carbon footprint of businesses and ensuring that organisations have the skills and knowledge within their human resource to do so. We take a look at how education providers can support learners into low carbon jobs and why climate change should be high on your curriculum agenda.

Why the world needs action on climate change

It’s increasingly apparent that we need to reduce carbon emissions and the United Nations has warned that if temperatures rise by more than 1.5⁰C, it would be a catastrophic disaster. Ice caps would continue to melt, sea levels would rise meaning increased flooding and the loss of coastal communities, and there would be an increase in severe forest fires.

Scientists have advised that to keep the temperature rise at 1.5⁰C or below, we need to be carbon neutral by 2050.

How do we become carbon neutral?

There is little doubt that we need to work towards being carbon neutral, net zero, but what might this look like?

In the UK, there is due to be a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035. There will be an increased investment in the infrastructure needed to support a significant increase in the numbers of electric vehicles. We will see more, and faster charging points and importantly, increased battery capacity.

Land use will change, with afforestation becoming seen more widely. Planting has already started on The Northern Forest, with the intention of planting 50 million trees in the north over the next 25 years.

Agriculture will be impacted as there is a move to increasingly plant based diets, with some farmers already diversifying the type of crops they grow. There will undoubtedly be more autonomous farm vehicles being used such as robots for feeding and weeding.

There will be changes in the home too, with all new build homes requiring low carbon heating by 2025. This might mean heat being provided by a heat pump for example. The roll out of smart meter technology is set to continue so that people can more closely monitor their energy usage at home.

How is government supporting carbon neutrality?

The Conservative Party manifesto for the 2019 general election committed to deliver on net zero by 2050 through investment in clean energy solutions and a green infrastructure. There was also a commitment to renewables along with support for hydrogen production and nuclear energy.

Subsequent to their manifesto pledges, the Environment Bill aims to help deliver on those commitments. It forms the basis of a domestic framework for environmental governance, and helps to manage to impact of human activity on the environment. If passed, it should prove to be significant in our move towards net zero.

What is YOUR local authority’s commitment to climate change?

On a more regional level, in all of the Combined Authorities within England, low carbon, green or environmental impact is high on the list of their priorities for action and investment:

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough - The Greater South East Energy Hub is one of five regional Energy Hubs in England. The Energy Hubs aim to provide local capacity support to bring investment into local, low-carbon energy infrastructure projects and make strategic links between local institutions.

Greater London – Work to limit car use as part of the COVID-19 recovery has commenced, in order to tackle air pollution.

Greater Manchester – Their vision is to be a clean, carbon neutral, climate resilient city region with a thriving natural environment and circular, zero-waste economy.

Liverpool City Region – Identified growth sector with low carbon contributing £2bn to the City Region’s economy

North of Tyne – There will be a Green New Deal, helping firms and workers transition to a green economy.

Tees Valley – Energy is listed as a priority sector as transformational growth is likely to take place.

West of England – The region has an ambition to be a driving force for clean and inclusive growth.

West Midlands – In July 2019, an 80-year carbon budget was passed, and further investment of approximately £40bn between 2020 and 2041, was also agreed.

With the UK hosting the UN Climate Change Conference in November 2021 (rearranged from October 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic), there is a consensus that as well as having environmental policies in place, the UK government should be taking action and looking to play a leading role globally.

One million new job roles to tackle climate change

As the economy starts to recover, it is evident that this is being viewed as a time to ensure changes are made, and this will inevitably mean changes to jobs – both in terms of new jobs being created, and changes to current job roles.

According to the Office for National Statistics, there are currently estimated to be 224,800 FTE employed in the Low Carbon and Renewable Energy Economy. This will grow, depending on the level of investment, with some estimates suggesting upwards of one million new jobs by 2030.  

What does this mean for skills?

With a predicted increase in job roles, and the transition from high carbon to low carbon, evidently people will need to learn new skills.

There is much debate about the skills required to work in the green sector, from engineering to electric car designers, to recycling to green building maintenance. The reality is, however, that the vast majority of everyone’s job roles will require an element of green skills, or an understanding of the green sector in order for the transition to be a success.

The skills system will need to be able to respond efficiently to demand, those within education settings will need to work ever more closely with employers to ensure their demands are met. Curriculums, and qualifications will need to be aligned to business demand to ensure that workers can gain the skills needed for employment in this space.

Where does Adult Education come in?

Given the change from high to low carbon, there will need to be a significant element of retraining and upskilling. The Adult Education Budget will play a pivotal role in this as it can be utilised specifically to re-skill and re-train in this sector, particularly as has already been suggested, Mayoral Combined Authorities have identified this as a priority sector or growth area.

As adults, we also need to be aware that the environment, and saving the environment, is a priority for our children something which has been highlighted by the climate strikes over the past year. Educating ourselves on climate change and environmental issues is a positive step to take. 

A qualification to tackle climate change

NCFE, alongside our premier partner, Learning Curve Group, has recognised the need for a new qualification in this area, and together we have launched Level 2 Certificate in Understanding Climate Change and Environmental Awareness to support learners to develop these vital skills and to support their employability in these areas.

Units include:

  • Understand Climate Change, Sustainability and Environmental Protection
  • Understanding Industry and the Environment
  • Understanding Resource Efficiency and Waste Management

Learners will gain knowledge in key areas such as climate change, pollution, government policy, clean growth, and also how they can reduce their own carbon footprint.

The qualification has been designed to meet the needs of a wide variety of stakeholders, and will therefore be valuable starting point for anyone who wants to be involved in the green transition, or for an employer who wants to develop the skills of their workforce. The qualification is suitable for learners aged 14 and over and is eligible for AEB funding from the ESFA. 

Climate change is everyone’s responsibility and the right knowledge and education is key to tackling this great threat. To find out more about adding this qualification to your curriculum, explore the information on QualHub or you can email [email protected] for more information.

Read next:  Top Tips for Going Green in The Classroom

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