Written evidence submitted by the Education and Training Foundation
About the Education and Training Foundation
The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) is the expert body for professional development and standards in Further Education (FE) and Training in England. We design, develop and deliver professional learning and development to supports teachers and leaders across the FE sector to help them achieve their professional development goals for the benefit of learners and employers across England. In doing so, we help to transform the lives of individuals and communities across the country, unleashing potential and benefitting the economy.
Our work has three key principles at its heart:
We have a strong relationship with the Department for Education, which recognises our unique expertise and funds many of the programmes we deliver. That support ranges from leadership development through to maths and English enhancement, to Prevent training and digital teaching skills. We also support recruitment into the sector and provide key data and research.
We are the guardian of the sector’s Professional Standards and home to the professional membership body for the sector, the Society for Education and Training, whose 20,000 members we support. SET is responsible for the awarding of both Qualified Teaching Learning and Skills (QTLS) status and Advanced Teacher Status (ATS).
This submission focuses on the provision of the skills, training and education necessary for the creation of green jobs to drive and sustain the transition to a net zero economy. It particularly focusses on how the Further Education and Training sector can best contribute. As such, it looks specifically at questions 2, 3, 5, 6 and 8 within the call for evidence.
Our key points include:
2. Does the UK workforce have the skills and capacity needed to deliver the green jobs required to meet our net zero target and other environmental ambitions (including in the 25-year environment plan)?
2.1 No. A significant shift is needed to enable us to have the skills base and the capacity to achieve these targets and fulfil our potential in contributing to the realisation of the UN sustainable development goals. This shift will require rapid, society-wide transitions. As highlighted in the recent College of the Future report, the FE sector is perfectly positioned to meet societal challenges1. The sector (not just colleges but also other FE providers) can grow the talent pipeline to address current skills shortages in low carbon technology industries and beyond, ensuring learners develop the required knowledge and transferable skills to take up the jobs of the future.
2.2 Numerous briefings from academia, industry and trade (e.g. Aldersgate Group2, OECD3, National Grid4, the Centre for Economic Performance5, ETICB6 and RICS7) show the skills gap, the economic benefits of transitioning to a sustainable economy and the critical need for investment in skills and training to enable that transition.
2.3 Critical to the development of widespread skills and expertise for green jobs will be the competence and capacity of education professionals. Currently these are not sufficient. In a recent survey of 350 primary and secondary school teachers, 75% feel they haven’t received adequate training to educate students about climate change8. Similar data for professionals in the FE sector doesn’t yet exist but the ETF is undertaking research utilising the 20,000 members of the Society for Education and Training (SET) which will be published later in 2021.
2.4 At present climate change, green skills and sustainability knowledge and skills and attribute development etc. (ESD outcomes) are limited in the curriculum as well as in occupational and apprenticeship standards. Current learner exposure to teaching on the most overtly sustainability-focused courses is reported as low, with only 36% of a sample of 8362 higher education students saying they have experienced teaching on ‘understanding how human activity is affecting nature’, 35% saying they have experienced teaching on ‘using resources efficiently to limit the impact on the environment and other people’ and 40% saying they have experienced teaching on ‘looking at global problems from the perspective of people from around the world’ at any point in their education to date9.
2.5 As well as there being a need for this to change in order to meet our net zero and other sustainability ambitions, the public and particularly learners believe the curriculum doesn’t sufficiently address sustainability issues, and in particular climate change, and would like to see this change10.
3. What needs to be done to ensure that these skills and capacity are developed in time to meet our environmental targets?
3.1 A significant investment in the skills and education sector is required to enable it to not only re-align its focus to ensure skills gaps are met and sustainability professionals developed, but to do this ahead of demand so there isn’t a lag between societal and industry need and what’s being taught. The gap between need and demand, current organisational capabilities and capacity, competing demands on education professionals and organisations and the build and roll-out times for interventions such as CPD, new course creation, curricular and standard revision etc. all need to be considered.
3.2 ESD outcomes need to be a central pillar of the whole education system, rather than an ‘add on’ or something that only occurs in certain subject areas. A national policy outlining this need, and inclusion in relevant regulatory frameworks, would send a clear signal to the education sector that delivering skills for the net zero transition and broader sustainability goals is a priority and should form part of core planning for future education provision within all elements of the education system.
3.3 Continued professional development in ESD outcomes and how to achieve them is needed for all staff working in the FE sector. This also needs to be included in initial teacher education and occupational standards.
3.4 Curricular as well as occupational and apprenticeship standards need to ensure they are equipping learners with the knowledge, skills and attributes needed to meet long term as well as short term needs. Stable mechanisms are needed whereby employers can come together alongside experts to establish what their industry's future demands are likely to be. There needs to be enhanced flexibility in curricular and qualifications to enable providers and teaching professionals to adapt to micro changes without needing to go through the regulator for a whole reaccreditation cycle will enable the education system to be agile in its response to new sustainability challenges and solutions and provide regional/local responses where appropriate.
3.5 Professional exchange at all levels needs to be facilitated to ensure up-to-date industry experience in the FE sector as well as enabling employers to understand how people are being equipped for work, enhancing their recruitment, training, learning and development practices.
3.6 FE providers are largely unprepared for the transition needed. Only 3 out of a study of 336 institutions are deemed to be taking significant action on addressing climate change in their own operations11. The recent work of the UK Climate Commission for FE and HE Leaders and Students, particularly the Climate Action Roadmap for FE Colleges12, is welcome and needed, but alone does not provide the sector with the incentives to create change across the diverse breadth of the FE sector. FE providers need incentives and accompanying resources to meet the outcomes recommended by the Committee on Climate Change’s 2020 Progress Report to Parliament at an organisational level: reducing their carbon emissions (including zero carbon buildings), using education to support the transition to a net-zero economy and ensuring a ‘just transition’ for workers transitioning from high-carbon to low-carbon or climate resilient jobs. Providers could be required to work with local stakeholders to develop and fulfil Sustainability or Climate Skills Action Plans (CSAP)13 or similar. These would be particularly impactful alongside a national framework by which they were collectively assessed to inform and reform curricula, direct investment in capacity building and delivery mechanisms ensure national needs are being met etc. This will also enable strong links between industrial clusters and education providers to develop which will accelerate workforce inflow. Capacity building needs to include local-level staff dedicated to developing and coordinating providers’ ESD provision.
3.7 Curricular requirements, occupational standards and apprenticeships standards all need to explicitly contain relevant ESD outcomes. Educational reform including the assessment of gaps, development of curricula etc must be done with input and collaboration with employers, industry bodies, unions, learner representatives and both national and local government agencies to ensure the needs of industry, learners and society are met and qualifications retain a high level of currency and relevance.
3.8 Private sector organisations should also provide training to their existing workforce in order to make the necessary shift towards net zero and other sustainability goals, as relying only on new employees to have sustainability skills will make any change too slow. The FE sector could become a provider of choice for high quality CPD, collaborating with professional bodies to develop wide-ranging programmes for multiple sectors.
3.9 Regional approaches will be important to effectively align local industry demands with education provision whilst also maximising the opportunities for reducing inequalities and increase accessibility to education.4
3.10 Consideration is also needed as to how best to create a positive culture of sustainability across the sector. Encouraging bottom-up engagement and ownership of how to create the change required and ensuring staff have the opportunity develop and to feed into solutions will help ensure sustainability outcomes aren’t seen as ‘another thing to do’ or result in tick box responses whilst also enabling far-reaching impacts into all aspects of FE in the formal, informal and subliminal curriculum.
5. What risks are there to meeting the Government’s ambitions for green job creation in both the public and private sectors? What should the Government do to create the conditions to ensure its commitments are met by both sectors?
5.1 The current response of the FE sector to climate change and other sustainability issues is piecemeal. As education and training is an enabling lever for meeting net-zero and other sustainability goals, this needs to be rectified rapidly. This will present challenges unless the investment and resourcing of the transition is sufficient.
5.2 Our response to question 3 outlines actions to create the right conditions for the FE sector to work with other stakeholders including those in the private sector to enable ESD outcomes.
6. Are the Government’s ambitions for green job creation in the public and private sectors sufficient for the scale of the challenges? What changes should be made?
6.1 There is a missed opportunity if the focus is purely on climate action and net zero emissions. The breadth of sustainability challenges as outlined by the UN Sustainable Development Goals can be tackled through the reforms to the education system as outlined in this submission.
6.2 As well as explicit green jobs in roles and industries that directly relate to the UK net zero target and other environmental ambitions (e.g. those in energy efficiency, renewables, improving the natural environment etc.) there is an opportunity to ensure that all jobs in all sectors are contributing to sustainability goals. This is accepted by bodies such as the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) who recognise the impact any employee can have, regardless of specialism or level of responsibility, on organisational sustainability targets. Similarly all sectors can benefit from specialist sustainability practitioners to drive changes in culture, operations, supply chain etc. Therefore, we need sustainable development within the formal curriculum of every learner across every discipline.
8. What additional interventions should be undertaken to aid in a ‘just transition’?
8.1 All new green jobs created should be good quality, decent jobs14.
8.2 The FE sector is uniquely placed to bring about transition and transformation in our society. The sector reaches millions of students from all walks of life, employs 100,000 staff and reaches communities in every town and city in the country. That reach has three big benefits.
8.2.1 It means the sector can support a just transition to net zero. With support, workers of all ages and backgrounds, from across the UK, are able to access training and retraining to be part of the net zero workforce in FE.
8.2.2 It could boost diversity across net zero sectors. The environment and sustainability sector has been identified as the second least diverse among over 200 professions in the UK15. The FE sector has a critical role to play in improving the appeal, accessibility and relevance of careers in climate change, and sustainability, within the communities it serves.
8.2.3 Although large-scale systemic changes are needed to combat the climate crisis, individual engagement with the climate change agenda is going to make those systemic changes more likely. The reach of the FE sector will enable greater reach and buy-in to behaviour change, community action and consumer choice should these elements be prioritised alongside the green jobs and skills agenda.
8.3 Investment in the education and skills sector needs to be UK-wide transition for those people and places whose livelihoods are based in the carbon economy, as well as areas of deprivation, prioritised.
8.4 Opportunities to engage in green jobs and education need to be visible to people – investment is needed to enhance careers and advice provision signposting to available opportunities.
References – all accessed 14 January 2021
1 Independent Commission on the College of the Future. 2020 The College of the Future. Available at https://www.collegecommission.co.uk/uk-wide-final-report-english
2 Aldersgate Group. 2020. Policy briefing: Upskilling the UK Workforce for the 21st Century. Available at https://www.aldersgategroup.org.uk/asset/1702
3 OECD. 2018. The future of education and skills: Education 2030. Available at http://www.oecd.org/education/2030-project/about/documents/E2030%20Position%20Paper%20(05.04.2018).pdf
4 National Grid. 2020. Building the Net Zero Energy Workforce. Available at https://www.nationalgrid.com/document/126256/download
5 Centre for Economic Performance and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. 2020. Jobs for a strong and sustainable recovery
from Covid-19. Available at https://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/cepcovid-19-010.pdf
6 ETICB. 2020. Towards Net Zero: The implications of the transition to net zero emissions for the Engineering Construction Industry. Available at https://www.ecitb.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Net-Zero-Report-Web.pdf
7 RICS. 2020. The Futures Report. Available at https://www.rics.org/globalassets/rics-website/media/news/news--opinion/rics-future-report-2.pdf
8 UKCSN, Oxfam et al. 2019. Climate Change Education. Available at https://sustainability.nus.org.uk/our-research/our-research-reports/energy-and-climate-change/climate-education
9 Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS). 2020. Sustainability Skills Survey 2019-20: Research into Students’ Experiences of Teaching and Learning on Sustainable Development. Available at https://sustainability.nus.org.uk/resources/sustainability-skills-2019-20-he
10 Climate Assembly UK. 2020. The Path to Net Zero. Available at https://www.climateassembly.uk/report/
11 SOS, NUS et al. 2020 How climate friendly is my institution? Available at https://www.carbontargets.uk/
12 Climate Commission for UK Higher and Further Education and Nous Group. 2020. Climate Action Roadmap for FE Colleges. Available at https://www.eauc.org.uk/fe_roadmap
13 Climate Emergency Response Group. 2020. Eight policy packages for Scotland’s Green Recovery. Available at https://www.changeworks.org.uk/resources/cerg-news-release-green-recovery-report
14 International Labour Organisation. 2008. Toolkit for Mainstreaming Employment and Decent Work: Country Level Application. Available at https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---exrel/documents/publication/wcms_172612.pdf
15 Policy Exchange. 2017. The Two Sides of Diversity: Which are the Most Ethnically Diverse Occupations? Available at https://policyexchange.org.uk/publication/the-two-sides-of-diversity/