Green Skills for Youths: A Prerequisite for a Sustainable World
Photo from Leaverage Edu
Half of the world’s population is aged 30 years or younger; it is expected to reach 57 percent by the end of 2030. This is the largest generation of young people in history. Africa has a youth unemployment challenge, with youth making up 13.6 percent of the unemployed labor force in Nigeria. Young people’s voices are also often unheard in conversations about how to create a sustainable world, even though they are the next generation of leaders that possess the power to drive change, and one of the most impactful ways they can do so is by acquiring and harnessing green skills.
Green skills are diverse knowledge, abilities, and competencies that enable individuals to address environmental issues and promote sustainability across various sectors. These skills empower individuals to flourish in the emerging green economy and contribute to building a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable global community. They also extend beyond traditional environmental disciplines and encompass renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, waste management, conservation, and urban planning. They draw on knowledge, values, and attitudes to facilitate environmentally sustainable decision-making at work and in life.
With the world facing challenges like climate change, resource depletion, and biodiversity loss, possessing green skills is becoming increasingly vital. Indeed, the demand for green skills rapidly increases as the global community transitions towards a low-carbon and sustainable future. The traditional job landscape is evolving, and industries are adopting environmentally conscious practices to meet global sustainability goals. This shift creates new employment opportunities and demands a workforce that understands the complexities of sustainable practices and can drive innovation in line with environmental considerations.
The IEA cites a current skilled worker shortage as a barrier to meeting international climate targets. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), up to 25 million young people aged 15 to 29 will enter the global job market by 2030. The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Employment Report, which was released in September 2022, states that job growth will include reskilling within the energy sector as well as the creation of up to 14 million new clean energy jobs. The ILO believes that the growing green economy and renewable energy industry have the potential to make a substantial contribution to closing the youth employment gap. A green transition may result in the creation of up to 8.4 million new jobs for young people worldwide, and globally, the renewable energy sector, which today employs about 12 million people, is expected to grow to 38 million by 2030 in order to fulfill global net zero goals.
Promoting green skills among youth serves as a means of promoting social equity. By providing equal access to education and training opportunities, regardless of background, we can bridge gaps and create pathways for all individuals to participate in the green economy.
Under her climate change and youth portfolio and in commemoration of International Youth Day 2023, Clean Technology Hub organized a Teens in Climate conference, which sought to equip young people worldwide with the proper knowledge required to take climate action, leading to the emergence of more young climate advocates nationwide.
The Teens in Climate webinar comprised young people from Nigeria, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Namibia. Some participants shared their insights on the climate and environmental challenges their countries currently face:
“Here in Namibia, not a lot is happening, but the temperature drops heavily, then increases at a large rate.” — Gerhard Van Wyk
“Nowadays in Bangladesh, we’re facing sudden natural disasters like overheating, flash floods, cyclones, and also increasing salinity in the coastal regions.”
— Maria Moktadira Shuchi
Gerhard Van Wyk: “The cause of global warming is that the earth is trying to cool itself, but due to the heat not having to go anywhere, it comes back down to earth.”
— Gerhard Van Wyk
“Here in Nigeria, there’s a lot of plastic pollution; there are recycling plants that are not explicitly utilized for climate action; they are let out to private companies and not used to help the planet. More plastics are produced than recycled ones, and the discarded plastics are dumped on the streets, openly dumped alongside other waste materials, most commonly in water bodies.”
— Treasure Etimbuk
“In Namibia, we sell plastic for N$3, and due to people not having the money, they reuse plastic bags.”
— Gerhard Van Wyk
“Here in Nigeria, waterways are blocked during the construction of houses in strategic areas. This has aided flooding in our environment. It is pertinent to consider this by noting critical areas for water flow when embarking on such projects.”
— Ubong Itama
The insights shared by these young people from all over the world only showed that young people are aware of the climate crisis and are willing to take action.
At the end of the webinar, the young participants learned how they can forge a professional path in the green and circular economy while raising awareness, engaging in sustainability practices, and building resilience. They were also taught that by investing in green skills, young people might be empowered to be the architects of a brighter tomorrow in which sustainable practices are woven into the fabric of society.
Flyers of the Teens in Climate Conference
Call to Action
Realizing the potential of green skills requires collaborative efforts among governments, educational institutions, businesses, and civil society. Governments must prioritize sustainable education and vocational training programs, while businesses can play a role by offering internships and employment opportunities aligned with green initiatives. Non-governmental organizations can contribute through awareness campaigns and capacity-building programs, fostering a culture of sustainability among youth.
Equipping youth with green skills is a multifaceted endeavor that involves education, training, and experiential learning. Schools, colleges, and vocational institutions are pivotal in integrating sustainability education into curricula, thereby fostering an understanding of environmental challenges and solutions. Beyond the classroom, internships, workshops, and hands-on projects provide young people with practical experience and allow them to apply their knowledge in real-world settings. Green skills are not limited to technical expertise alone. A comprehensive green skillset also includes critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and communication, which are essential for effective environmental stewardship. Youths must be empowered to analyze complex sustainability issues, propose innovative solutions, and communicate their ideas persuasively to diverse audiences. These holistic skills enable young individuals to drive change on both a personal and societal level.
Initiatives focusing on underrepresented communities, including scholarships and mentorship programs, are essential for ensuring that the benefits of green skills are shared widely.
Green skills are also tools for employment, and that is why the International Labour Organization believes that the growing green economy and renewable energy industry have the potential to make a substantial contribution to closing the youth employment gap. As a call to action, the United Nations Environmental Programme, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and the International Labor Organization announced the Green Jobs for Youth Pact at COP27 in Egypt, with the goal of empowering young leaders, providing skills training, and creating green job possibilities in developing nations. The Pact supports a just transition and good jobs for young people in a sustainable economy. By 2030, it aspires to create 1 million new green jobs, change 1 million existing occupations, and assist 10,000 young green entrepreneurs in starting their enterprises.
Onyekachi Chukwu leads the Climate change and youths portfolio at Clean Technology Hub