Green skills and green opportunities, the other side of the pervasive fear of climate change impacts.


When have we not heard about the reality, that we as humanity are facing one of the greatest challenges our civilization has ever had to confront? Make no bones about it; we are in an age of great uncertainty with regards to the stability of our planetary climate. I just cannot help but think, that instead just tackling this critical threat to our civilization and the planet we live on, we need to consider it also has a great opportunity for positive change. For innovation, new ideas, new forms of collaboration and opportunities to re-vision the world that we want to live, work and share in. We need to consider both the threats and the opportunities. Plus tackle issues, which traditionally have sat in the pending file 13, often thought about, but not acted upon.

Our status as a recognized regional power and a significant player in advancing the agenda of the developing countries, specifically in Africa, was given its credit at the Copenhagen climate change summit in December last year. The significance of our inclusion in President Obama’s initiative to forge a compact of sorts, with what the USA perceives as the key states cannot be under-rated. We are in the big league now. Climate change and the green economy has to be included in our human capacity-building agendas. Skills development, touted as South Africa’s route to excellence and the key strategy in enterprise-development as well as poverty-alleviation, now has an additional path to forge. To build and develop the green skills and capacities required to assist the South African high-carbon-based economy to transition to a low-carbon-based economy. More than anything our agricultural output is set to decline more than 50% by 2080.

There are some obvious challenges that we need to prepare for. Skills development is the primary instrument to improve a state’s ability to adapt to some of the change, as well as find innovative mitigation strategies to reduce the impact of the negative aspects of climate change.

Current ratings by key think-tanks, puts South Africa in the inadequate category, but with opportunities for major improvement. In some cases, we may be better able to leverage our ability and resources more easily than our developed cousins up north. Signs are showing at sector level of such green initiatives gaining momentum. South Africa’s construction industry and built environment professionals have formed the Green Building Council of South Africa . A body tasked with developing both the technical standards for certifying green buildings, as well as the skills and competency requirements to accredit professionals as green specialists.

All the signs and signals are there. As one major sector of the economy begins to adjust, generally others follow, drawn into it via the value chain of business transactions and requirements. Much like BEE, procurement will be the big driver of change no doubts, hotly followed by skills development, selection, recruitment and human resources management. For many of us, we can note these trends and become positive purveyors of knowledge to our enterprises that we might service, or be employed at. Or, we can be more passive, rather adopting the pending changes when more comfortable with the concepts.

The National Department of Environmental Affairs is in the process of mapping out what these green job opportunities and green skills needs will be. They are undertaking a significant research project and are going to develop the first Environmental Sector Skills Plan for South Africa. Arguably, it could quite likely be the first one in the world.

Let me the pose the question. What experiences are we all having within our very local or contextualised roles with regards to green jobs and green skills? Think about it, are we actively promoting the knowledge of such growing trends pro-actively to our clients, employers and stakeholders? Or are we merely completing the paperwork as trainers, assessors and ETD professionals? Are we already dealing with green jobs and green skills? Finally, should we be considering green jobs and skills? Only you can answer that question.

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