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Green Skills for Green Jobs

An article in CSR Asia ( by Jayanthi Naidu Desan (Vol.7 09/02/2011) addresses the relation between skills and Green Jobs in Malaysia.
Green Skills for Green Jobs

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"Increased resource efficiency gives rise to a low carbon or greener economy . This greening of the economy can offer competitive benefits to industry. The competiveness of industry however needs to be harnesses by a skilled workforce.The availability of skilled workers plays a crucial role in triggering a change in the transition to a green economy. Businesses provide the link in responding to the shortage of competencies and thus, are crucial in addressing the supply of skilled workers in the green economy and driving green productivity.
Designing Green Jobs
In Malaysia, the Green Technology Policy launched by the Prime Minister in 2009 has provided a blueprint for the creation of green jobs. The policy outlines 5 strategic thrusts:
  • Strategic Thrust 1 : Strengthen the Institutional Frameworks
  • Strategic Thrust 2: Provide Conducive Environment for Green Technology Development
  • Strategic Thrust 3: Intensify Human Capital Development in Green Technology
  • Strategic Thrust 4: Intensify Green Technology Research and Innovations
  • Strategic Thrust 5: Promotion and Public Awareness:
Under strategic thrust 3, the government seeks to intensify human capital development by availing training and education programmes, and by providing financial packages and incentives for students embarking on green technology related subjects. The Prime Minister has emphasised that Malaysia must “ensure that we have skilled, qualified, competent and productive human resources as this is a crucial factor for Green Technology development”.

The policy recognises that the transition to a green economy will inevitably affect existing jobs. Malaysia cannot base its future economic growth on activities that are carbon intensive. Jobs will have to move from carbon-dependent sectors to low-carbon sectors as economic growth shifts.
Industries which will be most affected include that that are producers of carbon-dependent products or services, like car manufactures or oil and gas producers.  Further, industries that produce products or services with highly embedded emissions (e.g. steel making) will need to reduce the carbon footprint of their goods, while industries that produce carbon dependent products (e.g. petrol car manufacturers) will need to diversify and change their products.
In all sectors, new jobs to help business adapt to a green economy will be required. Job losses are not inevitable but the requirement for companies to be less carbon intensive is.
In short, green skills become necessary with the emergence of new green occupations as well as the ‘green’ restructuring of certain sectors.  
At least three different shifts can be noted in the design of green jobs. The first concerns the greening of existing occupations. Rather than a shift, it represents continuation of a long term development in a particular area which incorporates green credentials. The second concerns innovation whereby the technological competence base is being used to create new business services and profiles. The third shift relates to the creation of entirely new occupational profiles not yet covered by the education supply such as clean tech industries.
Skills restricting the green economy?
There have been genuine steps forward in terms of developing a vision and identifying skill requirements for the transition to a green economy  in various countries, including Malaysia. However, there needs to be more clarity in terms of the supply of steady streams of skilled workers. Renewable energy companies for example will not be able to scale up unless they can be sure that the workforce will have the expertise to deliver technical skills, whether they are carbon accounting, procurement, construction, retrofitting and so on.
In the UK, the Commission on Environmental Markets and Economic Performance (CEMEP) published a report in November 2007 noting  that one in three firms in the environmental sector was being hampered by a shortage of skilled staff, from those needed to install new technology, to more advanced technical experts ranging from scientists, engineers and builders.
A Low-Carbon Skill Set
Along with targeting specific skills gaps the CEMEP believes that mainstreaming environmental knowledge and skills across all sectors will be essential to achieving a green economy.
A mobilisation plan for green jobs includes upskilling of existing training programmes and qualifications, and creating new ones in relevant industries. Skills mobilisation is necessary as the lack of adequate skills, notably in the construction, manufacturing and agriculture industry, has already been shown to hinder new job growth and sustained development of the sectors.
For example, there are few or no existing training and development programmes in Malaysia to meet the demand for new skills whenever new green occupations such as energy auditors or skilled solar technicians become necessary. Yet, industry is snowballing in terms of growth. For example, by 2020, the solar industry is expected to provide a gross national income of MYR13.9 billion and create 55,000 new jobs. Companies will however be struggling to recruit qualified technical staff, including skilled photovoltaic technicians. Existing science and engineering graduates are rarely trained in energy efficiency and professionals are not always familiar with new technologies.
Bridging the Skills Gap
So the question is what can companies do to address this challenge?

Collaborative learning:
Businesses need to work with educational institutes to tailor graduates for current and future demand for skilled, qualified and competent human capital. This is particularly true in green industries because some skills are essentially ‘first generation’ skills and needs collaboration between industry and training providers. IBM for example, is partnering with universities to develop courses on designing and managing green data centres.
Certified Professionals: Working with certifying bodies to develop industry standards can provide a crucial link in bridging the skills gap. In the US, the National Association of Home Builders’ Certified Green Professional recognises builders, remodellers and other industry professionals who incorporate green building principles into homes— without driving up the cost of construction. Such training provides a solid background in green building methods, as well as the tools to reach consumers, from the organization leading the charge to provide market-driven green building solutions to the home building industry. The Green Building Index (GBI) in Malaysia has a similar training methodology for its building auditors who are then called certified GBI auditors.


In order to develop further those issues surrounding collaborative learning and certification, the key step is really in changing those mindsets that provide barriers in reaching out to new and cleaner technologies. The truth is, reducing emissions or adapting to climate change are not seen as a strategic priority for many organisations, and many small businesses and public sector organisations do not yet understand how they need to change. Until technologies are familiar and proven, businesses are often reluctant to use them, or are unaware how well developed, robust and cost-effective ‘new’ technologies have become. As the price of carbon rises, businesses will however have to become more environmentally aware. They need to develop the skills to deal with these changes now.





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