Building a wind turbine (image by: Bill Ward)

Financial assistance and green collar apprenticeships are two of the pillars of regional policy in New South Wales (NSW) aimed at encouraging the education and training people will need to succeed in the emerging green economy.

In my previous post on skills shortages, I noted that we do not have time to wait for favourable policies that will facilitate the transition and so should encourage grass roots initiatives focussed on training workers in different sectors. At the same time, we must not ignore the progressive policies that are being developed and implemented more quickly in some parts of the world, the exceptions that will bolster the grass-roots initiatives. The regional policies in NSW are a case in point.

The need for change in training and education varies greatly across countries, sectors and occupations. For example, training for many jobs in sectors such as energy, construction and manufacturing will be fundamentally transformed while environmental components will be integrated into the existing education for more generic or cross-sector jobs in consulting, risk management or IT. Some adjustments will be made in response to new technologies or government regulations while others will be made to meet demand in new markets.

Researchers at the International Labour Organisation and the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training found that skills shortages exist for a number of reasons including a critical lack of scientists and engineers in both developing and developed countries, national education systems that cannot meet demand for green skills, underestimated growth for example in low carbon technologies and the low status of certain occupations in many countries.

The NSW Department of Education and Training has a ‘Green Skills and Energy Efficiency Strategy’ that provides subsidies for ‘accredited training that improves the environmental impacts of NSW business operations, products and services’. Businesses in sectors such as energy, construction, manufacturing, agriculture, hospitality and health can access the subsidised training.

Owners and managers, as well as workers and job seekers, can take a range of courses, for example in the design, installation and running of energy efficient technology, the delivery and marketing of environmentally-friendly goods and services, or the assessment of energy, water and resources use and savings. The formal training component for NSW apprenticeships and traineeships is free and individuals can receive additional assistance with travel and accommodation, or help for those who lost their jobs in the economic downturn.

Case studies bring to life the benefits of filling skills gaps in a variety of business activities from organic macadamia farming to resource-efficient printing to environmentally-friendly real estate development. They also highlight the need for staff engagement on all levels from owners to managers to workers.

This is the second in a series of posts that will explore different aspects of the challenge we face in providing the education and training for jobs in the low-carbon green economy. If the subject is of interest to you, don’t forget to check back over the next few weeks for further installments.

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