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Building skills for the green and circular transition

27 July 2022

The green transition is one of the primary transformations that will shape the future of our societies. Nevertheless, people often only think about the energy transition or reducing carbon emissions and waste when talking about greening. Those are undoubtedly essential pieces of the puzzle, but the greening of our societies does not stop there.

To fully achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 2030 Agenda, one of the main requirements will be to move from linear to more circular ways of production. This shift is one of the main objectives of the circular economy – a production and consumption model that involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible. In this way, the life cycle of products is extended, and waste production is reduced. The circular economy also offers opportunities for creating new or enhancing existing sustainability practices in jobs and employment as businesses bounce back from the pandemic's adverse effects. According to a 2019 ILO study, working towards a circular economy will create an estimated net total of between 7 and 8 million new jobs by 2030. Research carried out by Accenture shows that the circular economy could generate an additional $4.5 trillion of economic output by 2030 through job creation and innovation.

TVET institutions will play a significant role in making the green transition to a circular economy happen. Globally, 89% of students enrolled in post-secondary education at the ISCED 4 level pursued a vocational track (UNESCO, 2021). This raises the opportunities for young people to be steered towards this path of sustainability.

Acknowledging this crucial role, UNESCO-UNEVOC, with the support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), is developing the capacities of TVET teachers and training staff to implement green and circular economy approaches to skills for employment and entrepreneurship. The project – Capacity Building of TVET Personnel and Institutions and Upskilling of TVET Graduates to Manage an Inclusive and Sustainable Post-pandemic Recovery – was developed in collaboration with Circle Economy, an impact organization from the Netherlands that works internationally to accelerate the transition to a just and inclusive circular economy, and Circulab, a French strategy consulting firm which helps organizations shift towards a circular model.

The programme seeks to build the capabilities of TVET personnel, institutions and other training providers to support young people in their entry or re-entry to new job markets and entrepreneurial ventures, while strengthening their employability skills and knowledge of the circular economy principles and their application. There will be a special focus on youth affected by unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The programme aims to:

  • develop and implement a Train the Trainer (TtT) activity for TVET personnel and institutions to adopt approaches to deliver upskilling programmes to graduates suitable for a resilient, inclusive and sustainable post-pandemic recovery through circular economy practices; and
  • implement upskilling programmes targeted at early graduates of vocational tracks and future market entrants, focusing on circular economy principles and how they can be applied in jobs and practices.
According to Circle Economy, teaching circular approaches could lead to a higher uptake in jobs in agri-food, construction, textile, design, waste management and recycling sectors. The programme is now in its first step of implementation. Several TVET institutions from the UNEVOC Network in the Arab States, Asia-Pacific, Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean have been mobilized to obtain critical input on the status quo and potential entry points in existing TVET-oriented curricula of circular economy principles to tailor the training effectively.

On 27 June 2022, UNESCO-UNEVOC organized a a virtual meeting with representatives from several UNEVOC Centres, including TVET institutions from the Don Bosco network, to kick off data collection and analysis for the project. Participants who recorded high interest in the topic shared their experiences in teaching circular approaches and their localized methods to achieve circularity in other fields. Their aspirations for future training were also explored to make the training delivery effective. A similar consultation, organized with Circulab, is being conducted with selected institutions from the Arab States and Latin America.

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