Sustainable Scotland: A trained and tested workforce is key to delivering Scotland’s green revolution, writes Energy Skills Partnership director Jim Brown

The climate emergency offers both immense challenges and opportunities for the workforces of today and tomorrow.

Leaders from across Scotland’s green skills sector will come together on Tuesday at the Green Skills Conference, supported by Skills Development Scotland and The Scotsman, to discuss how Scotland will achieve the Climate Emergency Skills action plan. The plan targets the key issues from colleges and universities right through to reskilling and upskilling employees.

The huge range of new technologies and fledgling industries which will deliver everything from renewable energy to electric vehicles need to be staffed by Scots equipped with skills which were barely envisioned a decade ago.

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As the director of the Energy Skills Partnership (ESP), I see every day how we are meeting this challenge. ESP is a collaboration of Scotland’s colleges and industry partners aligned to ensure the country has the capability and capacity to deliver the competencies to meet constantly changing workplace demands.

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In Scotland we’re fortunate in the extreme to have a college network delivering the world-class skills, upskilling and re-skilling we need now, and will need even more in the future, as access to lifelong learning becomes an absolute requirement for every worker. Of course, colleges need assured, sustained and realistic funding to continue to do that.

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We all recognise the need for intervention in the climate emergency, which is why the Scottish Government has made it a top priority. So it’s vital to invest in delivering the skills needed to deliver the change required for the planet and to kick-start our economic recovery.

There is sometimes a lack of understanding or appreciation of the contribution Scotland’s colleges make in delivering the training we need. And the necessity for that contribution is only going to grow as we transition towards entirely new workspaces.

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Jim Brown is director of the Energy Skills Partnership

We need skilled workers to construct and maintain onshore and offshore wind farms, to maintain electric vehicles, to install domestic and industrial heat pumps and solar systems and to meet the dramatic changes brought about by emerging technologies from machine learning to artificial intelligence.

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We need to provide a flow of workers with the right competencies, in the right places, at the right time. This will require investment in facilities, equipment and staff and targeted funding to inspire the future workforce and support new entrants, while upskilling the existing workforce and those who want to transition across sectors.

We have worked with partners to develop a Sustainable Leaders programme while our colleagues at College Development Network are offering training on sustainability to every staff member in our colleges. And Colleges Scotland, the sector’s policy organisation, is tirelessly promoting the climate agenda on every campus.

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At ESP we ensure colleges are informed of the evolving demands of employers and that they have the skills to produce students to meet those new needs. By working with industry and government and, vitally, with colleges we strive to ensure emerging skills gaps are filled by college graduates capable of slotting into the workplace.

We are fully focused on the government’s Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan, the National Strategy for Economic Transformation and the Just Transition to Net Zero. To deliver on it we will continue to work collaboratively with industry and colleges and to encourage the investment needed to supply the pipeline of skilled students of all ages.

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Success from those partnerships can make Scotland a world-leader in green technology and allow us all to share in the windfall that will bring.

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