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Skills pathway to creating a greener Scotland laid out in new plan

By Calum MacLeod

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Offshore wind will provide new employment opportunities.
Offshore wind will provide new employment opportunities.

A new plan setting out the skills needed to help Scotland's twin aims of fighting climate change and recovering from the impact of Covid-19 has been given a warm welcome

The Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan identifies a series of priority areas focused on employers, education and individuals that will help Scotland capitalise on job opportunities emerging from the transition to a net zero economy.

Co-ordinated by Skills Development Scotland (SDS), the plan complements the simultaneously published updated Scottish Government Climate Change Plan, which commits Scotland to a green recovery from Covid-19.

Scotland's skills minister Jamie Hepburn said: “The updated Climate Change Plan puts Scotland on a pathway to our world leading climate change targets as well as delivering a green recovery from Covid-19.

“Our first Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan will, crucially, help us ensure people have the right skills to support a just transition to a net zero economy.

“The Green Jobs Workforce Academy will play a key role in this, supporting those who are facing redundancy to upskill and reskill so they can capitalise on green job opportunities as they emerge.”

Measures identified to support a green recovery from Covid-19 include targeted investment to support new jobs in sectors central to the transition to net-zero, support for people upskilling and reskilling into emerging green jobs through measures such as the Flexible Workforce Development Fund and the National Transition Training Fund, support for those facing redundancy in sectors facing job losses, and ensuring collective regional responses to labour market challenges and opportunities resulting from Covid-19.

SDS chairman Frank Mitchell said: “Over the next two decades the core competences of a wide range of jobs must become more directly relevant to the needs of a low carbon economy.

“That means updating and refocusing people’s skills so they can contribute to rising productivity and help Scottish firms capture a share of growing international markets.

“Meaningful collaboration is required across many agencies to face up to this task, and I regard this plan as an important milestone on the journey towards net-zero.”

Data manufacturing will also be a growth area as Scotland moves to a net zero economy.
Data manufacturing will also be a growth area as Scotland moves to a net zero economy.

Other priority areas identified in the plan include building better understanding and evidence of future skills needs, developing the future workforce for the transition to net zero and ensuring fairness and inclusion in the skills system as part of a just transition.

The plan includes a series of short-term and long-term measures.

These will include the launch of a Green Jobs Workforce Academy to help people secure green jobs opportunities as they emerge, and establishing a Green Jobs Skills Hub that will provide information on the numbers and types of green jobs needed over the next 25 years,

Also on the agenda will be the creation of a Climate Emergency Economic and Investment Leadership Group to provide leadership, oversight and to drive the alignment of skills investment with national ambitions, as well as maximising the uptake of apprenticeships in green jobs.

The plan was welcomed by Paul Campbell, head of learning and organisational development at Scottish Water and chairman of the Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board Employer Engagement Group.

He said: “The new Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan will provide a necessary focus on the key skills and industries needed to achieve recovery via a net zero economy and I am encouraged to see green apprenticeships play a central role in this.

“Employer collaboration with government, supply chain and partners – on skills and green jobs – is vital to Scotland’s overall economic recovery and therefore this plan offers welcome support to employers and business across Scotland.”

SDS has also launched its own 10-year Climate Strategy which sets out at high level how Scotland’s national skills body will contribute to Scotland’s national net-zero target across three key business areas: service delivery, engagement with stakeholders and partners, and the organisation and its people. SDS aims to be a lead contributor to a low carbon, inclusive and sustainable economy in Scotland by 2030.

Professor Dave Reay, executive director of the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan is hugely welcome, and couldn't be more timely. Skills and education are the driving force behind Scotland's transition to net zero and will underpin our green recovery from Covid too.

“A skills system that works for the whole of Scotland requires engagement with the whole of Scotland; from businesses and industry, through government and public bodies, to education providers and communities, all of us are key stakeholders in this climate skills plan and all of us must now ensure it is put into action.”

The plan was also welcomed by Claudia Rowse, deputy director for sustainable growth at NatureScot.

She said: “We know that transformative change will be needed across society if we are to meet the unprecedented challenge posed by climate change.

“Recent research by NatureScot revealed the huge opportunity for nature-based jobs to help Scotland secure a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and transition towards a net zero economy. That research also identified a number of barriers – including skill shortages, access to training opportunities and a lack of diversity.

“This action plan is an essential step towards addressing those challenges and realising the huge potential that exists for us to build back better – ensuring a fair, inclusive green recovery that tackles the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.”

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