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23 April 2024

Five reasons why skills are driving the green transition

In honour of Earth Day, we highlight the importance of skills in combating climate change.

An illustration for Earth Day 2024 of the earth cupped in outstretched hands.

In the global pursuit of sustainability, the transition towards a greener economy is vital to mitigate climate change, conserve natural resources, and foster social equity.

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) has a central role to play in this transition. It gives individuals the practical skills, knowledge, and competencies needed to thrive in greening industries and contribute to sustainable development.

Here are five reasons why skills are essential for driving the green transition:

1. The green transition depends on skilled workers

The successful shift towards a green economy hinges on the availability of the right skill sets. Industries are changing rapidly, new occupations are appearing, and the job profiles of existing professions are evolving to meet their needs. With these challenges come great potential for job creation.

Over the past five years, the number of jobs requiring green skills grew 9.2%, says a recent LinkedIn study. However, the share of green talent grew only by 5.4%. In general, only one in eight workers around the world has one or more green skills.

The multiple pathways to learning and training offered by TVET are one of the keys to ensuring the timely availability of the necessary skills for this transformation.

2. New jobs require specialized training

TVET programs offer hands-on training and technical education tailored to the needs of green industries, enabling individuals to acquire specific competencies required for roles in areas such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, transportation, or green construction. By focusing on practical skill development, TVET prepares individuals to participate in the green economy and support the transition towards a low-carbon future.

Reflecting on these new green occupations, WorldSkills recently added Renewable Energy to the list of official skills in WorldSkills Competitions, making its debut at WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition. Another skill that holds the key to a decarbonized future is Rail Vehicle Technology, one of WorldSkills newest skill competitions, making its debut at WorldSkills Competition 2024. 

3. Existing occupations are embracing sustainability

All skills need to adopt sustainable practices if humanity is thrive in the new paradigm posed by climate change. From a refrigeration and air conditioning technician to a painter to a cook, all professions can be performed in more sustainable ways if workers are trained appropriately. Often these approaches can help to reduce waste and use resources more efficiently.

That’s why sustainable practice has now become a transversal skill, part of the WorldSkills Occupational Standards to be included and assessed in all skills competitions at WorldSkills Lyon 2024. With this important move, WorldSkills can influence Competitors and Experts to integrate sustainability not only as part of their training for their competition, but in their jobs.

4. TVET can bring all stakeholders together for the green transition

With its close ties to industry and the world of work, youth, and educators, TVET has the potential to incorporate green skills quickly. If policymakers, sectoral bodies, and training providers collaborate to update curricula and qualifications, the skills being taught will match the needs of the labour market in the years to come.

Many educators, instructors, and students, particularly the younger generation, show great enthusiasm for the green agenda. Educational institutions must build on this appetite, encouraging apprentices to be catalysts for change within workplaces. Some of the foundational elements to foster a solid foundation for TVET are outlined in this publication by the European Union.

5. Skills inspire innovation and entrepreneurship

From creating more sustainable consumption habits, to developing solutions for using less pesticides in farming, to ensuring more sustainable supply chains, young skilled workers are not only supporting industries to become greener, but creating solutions to climate change. Every year, the final of BeChangeMaker, our annual business acceleration programme, includes social entrepreneurship ideas in this vital area.

As outlined in the ILO’s Skills for a greener future study, it is crucial to acknowledge that skills shouldn’t be seen as a passive tool of the economy, simply reacting to changes as they occur. Instead, having a workforce that is well-trained and adaptable, capable of continuous learning, instils confidence. This confidence, in turn, fosters investment, sparks technical innovation, encourages economic diversification, and promotes job creation.

Skills play a pivotal role in facilitating the green transition by equipping individuals with the knowledge and mindset needed to thrive in a rapidly changing world. From specialized skills development and job creation to sustainability integration and community empowerment, TVET serves as a catalyst for building a greener, more inclusive, and resilient society.