FE workforce investment critical for green growth, ETF tells MPs

Ensuring teachers and trainers in the Further Education and Training sector have the resources, skills and knowledge required to train those moving into jobs that will support green growth is vital. That was the message to the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into Green Jobs from Education and Training Foundation (ETF) Head of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), Charlotte Bonner, when she gave evidence to it at the beginning of March (2021).

Responding to questions about how the education system can be enabled to rise to the green growth challenge, she underlined the vital role of the sector’s workforce and ensuring it is properly supported. “Investing in teachers is always taken for granted – you see huge policy documents about green jobs where this isn’t mentioned – but it is the biggest lever of change” she argued.

She also stressed that education for sustainable development (ESD) should be seen as a central pillar of the education system, rather than a specialism for just a few subject areas. “There’s a difference between education about sustainable development and education for sustainable development” she said. “Both are important – the former helps develop specialists in sustainability – but we also need the latter, ensuring that all learners have the knowledge, skills, values and attributes to create a more just and sustainable world.”

“This is not to say that all learners should have an expert knowledge of all the areas of sustainable development, but instead that learners have sustainable development knowledge, skills, values and attributes as a core competency and they understand how their subject area – whether that be law, marketing, construction or social care – interrelates with sustainable development and can contribute to the realisation of sustainability goals, and, vitally, that learners have the values and agency required to act upon that knowledge.”

The session also looked at how to strengthen the partnership between the education sector and business to support green jobs, how different parts of the education system could collaborate to develop sustainability skills, and how both the urgency and demand for green jobs means action is needed as soon as possible. Also giving evidence were Meg Baker of Students Organising for Sustainability, Lee Jowett of Leicester City Council, Iain Patton of the Environmental Association of Universities and Colleges, and Graham Petersen of the Greener Jobs Alliance. The session is available to view on the Parliament website. The ETF’s written evidence to the inquiry was published in January.

Unlike most select committees, the Environmental Audit Committee’s remit cuts across government rather than focusing on the work of a particular department. It considers the extent to which the policies and programmes of government departments and non-departmental public bodies contribute to environmental protection and sustainable development and audits their performance against sustainable development and environmental protection targets.

The ETF recognises the vital role the Further Education and Training sector has to play in combating climate change and achieving sustainability and social justice both nationally and globally, and is developing initiatives to help support its adoption of ESD to enhance teaching, learning, assessment and leadership. For more information visit the Education for Sustainable Development page on the ETF website.

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