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Preparing TVET for a green and more resilient transition

10 March 2023

A global push to build back better after the COVID-19 pandemic seeks to include more sustainable economic and social recovery measures. These comprise not just pandemic resilience but also investment in sustainable, inclusive and climate resilient technologies and infrastructure, and in robust education systems.

A renewed focus on resilience is critical to prepare individuals and foster systems that can scale-up and support the capacity to adapt and absorb future challenges. According to UNESCO, resilience refers to “the ability of children, families, communities, and systems to withstand, adapt to, and recover from shocks and stresses”.

TVET institutions will also have to become more resilient in order to supply the skills and transform mindsets required for the transition to greener economies and societies. The development of green businesses will be important for the recovery. ‘Nature-positive’ solutions are projected to create nearly 400 million jobs in post-COVID recovery and stimulated growth.

But some people and places have been disproportionately affected by job displacement and others will be impacted by the costs of climate change adaptation and mitigation – often those already in a vulnerable condition and with the least institutional and financial resilience.

UNESCO-UNEVOC has implemented a project to build resilience in TVET for a just and green transition, with support from the German Federal Government through Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. “The aim of this project is to support TVET stakeholders in member states as they work towards achieving institutional resilience so that institutions are able to persist, adapt and transform when faced by disruptions,” said Friedrich Huebler, Head of UNESCO-UNEVOC.

Mr Huebler noted, “The COVID-19 pandemic, climate change or armed conflict have in some cases led to a reversal of the gains made by the global community in different areas including poverty, education, health and the environment. And this means that we must all strive to improve our ability to not only withstand, but recover from and adapt to, adverse events to help institutions in member states overcome these disruptions.”

Greening teaching and learning processes

Unlike the pandemic shock, the green transition is expected to be gradual. Yet TVET institutions need to start monitoring changes in skill demands and develop reskilling and upskilling opportunities. Ultimately TVET institutions will require new, updated curricula to propel the green economy.

As well as new curricula, the green transition requires a change in the mindset and behaviour of learners and the communities around them, according to Kenneth Barrientos, UNESCO-UNEVOC’s Team Leader for SDGs and Greening TVET. Through the project, “TVET institutions are supported to engage in approaches for greening their own process and creating inclusive learning environments that cultivate a positive change in the mindset of learners and communities,” she said, highlighting that this requires clearly identified needs and opportunities for change.

In addition, there is a need to support TVET teachers in integrating green data in their teaching processes and collecting resources for use in their day-to-day preparation of greener curricula, Ms Barrientos noted.

Systems approach to a green transition

As part of the project, UNESCO-UNEVOC together with UNIDO’s Learning and Knowledge Development Facility hosted an awareness training workshop in January 2023 on Market Systems Development to introduce concepts and approaches for building greener and more resilient TVET systems.

Aimed at systems planners and managers who work with different industry actors and ecosystems, and as part of the UNIDO-supported component of the project, it looked at how shocks such as COVID-19 can change the market conditions which impact on the skills development system.

The aim was to help participants understand how to effectively analyse market systems so that TVET institutions can position themselves better and help to improve system resilience.

Participants included TVET planners and managers from Cambodia, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gambia, Mauritius, Nepal, Sierra Leone and Uganda, including members of the global UNEVOC Network of more than 220 TVET institutions in almost 150 countries.

Virpi Stucki, UNIDO's Chief of Rural Entrepreneurship, Job Creation and Human Security Division, pointed to an ongoing pilot in Ethiopia using this approach to analyse the skills system. It “tries to find the key bottlenecks or the key failures in the market that should be changed in order to be able to build resilient TVET systems,” she explained.

UNIDO noted that experience in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia has shown the market systems approach to be a useful tool, but it is important to acknowledge the green transition might not be without costs.

“What if your funding source changes? You need a clearer understanding of the costs and how long you can maintain your core business or activities,” Matthias Larsen, an industrial development expert at UNIDO, explained.

Another major bottleneck in transitioning to a greener economy is capacity building, he noted, adding some TVET systems would not be able to do this without support. It would require a continuous effort to build institutional capacities underpinned by the UNESCO-UNEVOC and UNIDO project’s approach.

The need for mindset change

Changing mindsets is key to greater resilience.

One of the workshop participants, Deodonne Kunwufine, an official in Cameroon’s Ministry of Secondary Education, stated that the ministry has introduced the concept of a ‘clean school’, but he said there was still some way to go for full implementation.

“With the green transition, we are at the stage of making people more aware,” he said. “For example, in technical education we need to teach how to reduce waste, to reuse waste materials. In our technical schools, materials are used and then thrown away without taking care of the environment.”

Mr Kunwufine, who is also Coordinator of the Inspectorate of Pedagogy for Industrial Education in Yaoundé, is working to set up pilot schemes for TVET courses to include waste recycling and reuse. “In the electrical field for example, we try to identify the different waste materials that are being produced and see how we can reuse them. So, when the students start working, they will be better prepared for a green transition.”

Another workshop participant, Baikuntha Prasad Aryal, Director General of the Curriculum Development Centre of Nepal’s Ministry of Education, said a greener and resilient TVET system has implications for the production and consumption of goods and also the use and transformation of natural resources in his country.

“We are trying to mobilize our graduates to initiate ideas on how we use natural resources optimally to take future generations into account, and then align these with skills development and the TVET curriculum,” he explained.

“Green work and reducing the impact of global warming are critical issues in Nepal – for example, the snow in the Himalayas is melting. So it is important to reduce the use of technology which has a direct impact on our natural resources.”

Tek Bahadur Malla, Head of Nepal’s National Skill Testing Board, pointed to a focus on less paper consumption in TVET classrooms, especially after the shift to online classes.

Demand is also an opportunity in the green transition

But there are also demand-driven opportunities that require preparation.

Solar energy and skills for installing panels and wiring buildings have become more important but some installers acquire their skills informally. “We assess them and provide certification,” he said, noting that before COVID-19, his division was providing some 100 certifications a month.

“More solar technicians are needed, so there is scope for expansion because it is demand driven,” he explained.

The market systems approach aims to address underlying poor performance in markets as a way of stimulating large scale, systemic change and avoiding big shocks to the system, such as occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms Barrientos pointed to this approach as a way of “understanding which types of supporting functions are already present in a specific TVET system and also understand this role”, as TVET transitions towards sustainable, greener economies.

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