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15 December 2023

Irish Champion brings the voice of skilled youth to COP28

Megan Yeates, WorldSkills Kazan 2019 gold medallist in Freight Forwarding, was part of two panels organized by UNESCO-UNEVOC at COP28 in Dubai.

Major transformations are required to adapt our economies and societies to address the climate crisis. The efforts of countries around the world to reach net zero emissions by 2050 are influencing technological advancements, production methods, goods, and services, which, in turn, is creating a growing demand for green qualifications and skills.

As a result, education and training systems need to adapt their curricula and teaching methods to equip individuals with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to support the green transition.

However, research by UNESCO indicates that these systems are not adequately prepared for such a change. According to their findings, less than half of the organization’s member countries have incorporated environmental themes into their national education documents or placed a significant emphasis on green and sustainable skills.

This despite most young people – 70 per cent according to the data – demanding a better quality of climate change education to meet their needs and expectations.

To capture the perspectives and achievements of young people engaged in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), the UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre for TVET, in close collaboration with its partners, including its UNEVOC Centre – the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), the United Arab Emirates, and WorldSkills organized two sessions at COP28 UAE on 5 and 7 December.

WorldSkills Champion Megan Yeates, winner of the Gold Medal in Freight Forwarding at WorldSkills Kazan 2019, took part in both sessions. Megan, who has participated in several WorldSkills Conferences and events including WorldSkills Ireland Conference 2023 during WorldSkills General Assembly 2023, is a logistics industry ambassador. She works to promote the opportunities in the industry for young people, especially women.

Megan is currently working for the Freight Transport Association of Ireland as an Apprentice Coordinator for both the Transport Operations & Commercial Driving, and Logistics Associate Apprenticeships.

“In Ireland, each apprenticeship is developed with sustainability at the forefront. It allows students to share their learnings directly within their workplace and help make changes and bring best practice,” said Megan during one of the sessions, adding that, “Today, most of what young people know is coming from conversations and is not a solid core foundation or true appreciation. It is not just a nice to have, it is something which is essential to build in.”

The panels also discussed how organizations are helping to transform TVET and develop skills that keep pace with technology and meet the needs of industry.

“We need the turnaround to be a lot quicker in education. In the modern world, things are changing very quickly so we need to ensure the education system is up to date. Industry should keep their workforce up to date, and systems should pre-emptively educate people in education and training institutions in upcoming policies before the policies are actually implemented,” said Megan.

Panelists shared their experiences acquiring relevant skills and knowledge and applying them to become young agents of change for the green transition.

When asked about how young people can be a part of the climate solution yet ensure that no one is left behind in the green transition, Megan pointed out that there is not a single solution and that it is about being adaptable and aware of different needs.

“Young people can learn from the older generation on what they have tried and what has worked. They can take these learnings and use their critical thinking and problem-solving skills to develop new sustainable ideas,” she said.

“This generation is a lot more focused on inclusivity than generations before, which helps to work towards a just transition. This is why as young people we need to learn and get as much exposure as possible to help work towards the ideas and solutions that are most suitable to all.”

Megan Yeates, WorldSkills Kazan 2019 gold medallist in Freight Forwarding, standing in front of a COP28 billboard at the COP28 event in Dubai.

Megan’s participation at COP28 stems from WorldSkills engagement with UNESCO on the organization’s “Greening Education Partnership”. UNESCO-UNEVOC, the ILO, and WorldSkills have been exploring ways for greening TVET. The two joint sessions are a first step in this collaboration.

UNESCO has created a page where you can find all information on “Skills as an Enabler for Youth to Participate in a Just and Green Transition” COP28 Greening Education Hub Session, including both session concept notes, presentations, related publications, and recordings.