The vision of a greener growth path for South Africa and its potential for job creation has spurred unprecedented national collaboration between the environmental sector and education institutions and agencies, towards the development of quality green skills.
Key players convened at The National Environmental Skills Summit (NESS) on 30 and 31 October in Johannesburg to outline the roadmap and prioritise skills development initiatives that will support a robust green economy for South Africa.
"Instead of competing on scarce green talent, as a sector we are proud to be working together for the greater good by creating socio economic value that will enhance our country's competitiveness," said Brian Goodall, chairman of The Lewis Foundation and lead partner in the GreenMatter initiative.
Partnerships and initiatives
Various partnerships and priority initiatives were conceptualised over the two days of dialogue and planning, some of which include:
Sector support for the recently announced The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) led jobs fund initiative. This partnership will support approximately 800 matriculants and graduates through a two and a half year skills incubator that will include training, mentoring and experiential learning across 30 environmental organisations and institutions, with the objective of permanent job creation.
Developing leadership for environmental sustainability.
Greening the FETs: Working with further education authorities to integrate green skills in the college system to increase the employability of FET graduates.
A nine member skills research partnership, led by the the Conservation, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sports Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHS SETA) and Rhodes University, will work towards the alignment of research on environmental skills intelligence, learning pathways and occupations.
A national mentoring initiative led by WWF-SA, supported by GreenMatter, EWT, the NCC-Group, SANBI, the City of Cape Town and the Wildlands Conservation Trust amongst others, will set up provincial hubs to enhance mentoring capacity and talent retention for scarce skills in the sector.
"Environmental dynamics affect everyone and the CATHS SETA is committed to supporting a coordinated approach to realise the full potential of the Green Economy in terms of skills development and job creation. At a time when everything centres around how going green is the future, it is surprising to have observed such diminutive presence of South African businesses in the green skills dialogue. Every sector has a role to play in growing and participating in the skilling of a green economy, " stated Mike Tsotsetsi, CEO of the CATHS SETA.
Scarcity of skills
The scarcity of green skills has significant impact on the management of natural resources, such as water and energy. At the NESS 2012, the Energy and Water Sector Education and Training Authority (EWSETA) presented findings of a recent study that unpacked the implications of skills shortages and recommendations to address these needs.
"Organisational performance signals convincingly demonstrate that the water sector is facing extremely serious challenges which potentially represent a national catastrophe. These challenges cannot be solved through training as usual in isolation. They require significantly increased funding, dramatically improved supply-side efficiencies, innovative skills development strategies and 'whole organisation' approaches to address the skills backlog. This can only be achieved through effective partnerships," said Candice Moodley, Marketing and Research officer for EWSETA.