Green Thinking For A Green Future
Then talking about green jobs, the “green” should be placed in inverted commas, says Dr Nicola Jenkin of Pinpoint Sustainability. Why? “Because although ‘green’ comes with stereotypes of a conservation or renewable energy focus, it’s important that we start to consider that all jobs can have a green element if we are to build a sustainable, circular economy that benefits everyone,” she says.
“A green job doesn’t mean you have to work in a particular field, but rather that you have an understanding of how your role could incorporate the green economy or how your skills could be brought to bear in furthering green causes.
“A ‘green economy’ isn’t one that centres on killing off the internal combustion engine and going vegan, but rather about creating a society and economy that is just and decent. A green economy creates sustainable livelihoods and is environmentally and socially beneficial, and it creates paid permanent jobs in new industries or existing ones that have become more sustainable,” says Jenkin. “It’s a shift away from nonrenewable activities and towards understanding how the system can work better.”
Jenkin says that this economy needs more people across the board – lawyers with an understanding of green legislation, engineers looking at new technologies for construction, people looking at ways to reduce waste or design new products that have less of an environmental impact, teachers who can educate the next generation in new ways of thinking about sustainability, leaders to institute strategic insight, planning and risk mitigation, and more.
Green skills, green technology
“We need to look at ‘green thinking’ as a job skill, across the board,” says Jenkin. “Understanding how our jobs, skills and capabilities contribute to the creation of a circular economy can help us transition to a greener future.”
She says that while many people see the transition to a greener economy as a “job loss story”, the opposite is true. “It’s about reskilling, not losing jobs. The green economy is opening up opportunities for workers to apply their skills to new areas – such as coal miners transitioning to solar panel technicians – and there’s plenty of scope to move along with the new technology.”
The Atlantis Special Economic Zone (ASEZ) is a zone in the Atlantis industrial area to the north of Cape Town dedicated to the manufacturing and provision of services in the green technology space. It also undertakes training in “Greentech”, particularly among the youth, where the focus is on training in water treatment, waste management and renewable energy. Ursula Wellmann, ASEZ Community, Skills and Enterprise Development Project specialist, says that the majority of courses run through the ASEZ are fully accredited and recognised by both the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) and the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO).
The ASEZ water treatment programme gives participants the technical and theoretical skills needed to work in a water treatment facility. Similarly, waste management training provides the participants with technical capabilities to work at a waste management facility. The training of renewable energy workshop assistants includes the basics of equipment use and renewable energy and electricity, combined with practical training – mounting of solar PV systems on various roofs.
“The courses are designed to address the skills gaps and any demands that investors might have, based on various studies over the recent years. Accordingly, the courses focus on green skills development and technical training. Leveraging partnerships and the collaborative efforts of various levels of government in support of the same aim, skills and enterprise development in Atlantis has required innovative approaches,” concludes Jenkin.