“Grassroot action to implement a green action needs to be taken up a notch, to society level action”, said Anastasia Fetsi, Head of Operations at ETF, setting the scene for the session on Supporting the Green Transition.

In a session overflowing with individual-driven practical examples on the green transition — many of them submitted by the online conference audience — from Georgia and Belarus respectively came on-the-ground efforts to change the educational landscape. 

Maia Tkhemaladze, an English teacher at Sachkere Public School No2 in Georgia, outlined a project to bring Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into the teaching curriculum. Working across subject divisions the results showed promise not only in changing the behaviour of the students involved, but also their parents and the surrounding neighbourhood. 

This power of curriculum was repeatedly mentioned in breakaways. Maia Tkemaladze said it was critical to incorporate SDGs not only into the school curriculum but also into pedagogy in universities and professional education.

Dmitry Boyechko, Chief of the Laboratory at Echo-tech park Volma in Belarus, described an innovative attempt to share a centre-of-excellence’s technical riches beyond its traditional clients. Not only is the Echo-tech park available to the region’s academic and business institutions but it also welcomes the involvement of adults and youth in the wider community.

“It is,” said Boyechko, “through the introduction of ‘new technology’ into the students’ lives, a kind of vocational guidance”. 

The gap between the green aspirations of young people and existing structures’ ability to meet them was apparent from an ETF/UNICEF poll of 8,000 young people in Eastern Europe. It found that while 90% said the green economy was important to them, 85% said that governments were not doing enough to encourage it and barely 30% agreed that their schools taught them enough about green issues.

At an industrial level Margherita Calderone, Principal Economist on Economic Inclusion at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), described a large Macedonia project where, in a region long dominated by coal extraction, a “fundamental transformation” is taking place to alternative energy.

The EBRD investment has not only been at the work-face but, critically, in reskilling about a fifth of the 4,000 workers who won’t be retiring, into new occupations. A critical measure of success for the EBRD is the “redeployment of the majority of the workers, through the provision of new opportunities, so that they remain within the region”, says Calderone.

In such examples, said Fetsi, “we are observing the character of change”. The challenge was to take the many pockets of innovation to a system level. In this regard, said Kenneth Barrientos, Team Leader for SDG and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) at UNEVOC, it was key to align TVET with national and international priorities – a challenge at which Europe remains ahead. 

Florian Kadletz, ETF Turin, reminded participants in the side discussion that a number of international organisations emphasised the importance of career guidance and career education in wider policies on employment, education and training, as well as lifelong learning strategies and the green transition. 

It was telling, he said, that “a recent OECD study reveals that most young people still just have 10 traditional occupations in mind” when deciding on their future work path.

A compilation of break-out session groups conclusions identified as some future priorities:

— Working closely with business to understand their needs. (A participant poll ranked government and companies virtually equal as the most important actors in a green transition, followed by civil society organisations).

— Fostering private-public partnerships.

— Incorporating SDGs in school curricula.

— Compiling a green qualification framework.

— Building green industries through economic restructuring and technological innovation.

Fetsi concluded that while planning, regulatory and investment mechanisms were important, what was needed was “an overhaul of the education and training system … to change mindsets, encourage both technological and social innovation, and provide the skills needed at a systemic level to live green lives.” 

Key take-aways:

— The green transition is being successfully pioneered at grassroots level by a myriad of individual innovations but these need to be scaled up and structured into a systemic programme of innovation and change.

— There is a considerable gap between the green aspirations of the youth and the ability of existing structures to meet them.

— Transforming grassroot innovation into policy and large-scale implementation will require that existing education and training systems are aligned with green priorities at national and international levels to deliver the new skills that are needed.

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