The low carbon economy, no longer a marginal concern, is being hailed by policy-makers, employers and workers alike as the way forward for Europe. Cedefop responds with a new publication on green skills and jobs and a workshop at the European Parliament.

Getting the balance of skills right

Cedefop’s study, Skills for green jobs – part of a broader study carried out with the International Labour Organization (ILO) – shows that to best serve the goals of the green economy, European policy needs to focus on upgrading existing skills and jobs. There is less need for entirely new curricula than for promoting lifelong education and training in technology, science and engineering - and for adding skills for sustainable development to the ones people already have.

The study will be discussed at an event at the European Parliament on 29 September. The event, Learning to be green: Future skills for green jobs, is hosted by MEP Chris Davies (UK-ALDE), Co-ordinator on the Environment Committee of the European Parliament, and MEP Elisabeth Schroedter (D-Greens), Vice-President of the Employment Committee.

Speakers will include László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Jan Truszczyński, Director General for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, and representatives of industry and of the major social partner organisations.

Cedefop’s expert on green skills, Peter Szovics, will also be presenting some of the findings at the Belgian Presidency’s conference on green skills, Promote green jobs: a major, essential lever for a successful transition towards a low-carbon economy, to be held on 28-29 September in Brussels.

An emerging consensus on green development

It is no surprise that Cedefop’s ongoing work on green skills and jobs* is attracting the attention of policymakers across Europe. Sustainable development is now at the forefront of the European economic agenda and moreover, it is here to stay. Clearly, for the economy to move towards renewable-energy sources and lower carbon emissions, people must have the skills to implement the necessary changes across a wide spectrum of sectors.

The social partners agree on the importance of developing green skills in Europe. On the employers’ side, the Manifesto of the Alliance for a competitive European industry, Shifting gears for a new EU industrial partnership (February 2010) notes: “European industry has the ambition to be a global leader in sustainable technologies and to play a leading role in the emerging ‘green economy.” Speaking at the Shanghai World Fair in July, EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht pointed out an excellent result of such ambitions: Europe’s trade with China in cutting-edge environmental technology is now its fastest-growing export market.

In its Paris Declaration (May 2009), the European Trades Union Confederation (ETUC) insists on the need for an industrial policy that promotes innovation, research and sustainable development, and points out the importance of lifelong education and training, noting: “Now is the time for Europe to provide workers with the qualifications needed for tomorrow’s low-carbon economy”.

The business case for a green economy and job market is a strong one. But there is a deeper reason to focus on green skills: advanced economies are shedding “routine” industrial or white-collar routine jobs at a fast pace. Our education and training systems are turning away from rote learning in favour of developing creativity and innovation – the most important value European workers can now add to production.  And what could be more creative and innovative than rethinking and redesigning the way we have been running our economies?


*"Green jobs reduce the environmental impact of enterprises and economic sectors, ultimately to levels that are sustainable. “Green jobs” are [defined as] work in agriculture, industry, services and administration that contributes to preserving or restoring the quality of the environment” (Green jobs: toward decent work in a sustainable, low-carbon world: policy messages and main findings for decisioni-makers. ILO/UNEP 2008)

Photo credits: European Commission Audiovisual service


European Parliament workshop. Learning to be green: Future skills for green jobs.

Brussels, European Parliament, Room ASP 5G2. 
29 September 2010, 15:00-18:00.