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 for 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.
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 SANBI led Jobs Fund initiative (Groen Sebenza). 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. Initiatives supporting this objective include the GreenMatter Fellowship supported by the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust (HHCT) , the Lewis Foundation and SANBI, the commencement of the One Planet Leaders programme by WWF-SA, and engagement with business schools to shape management programmes, focusing on developing leadership competencies towards sustainable business practices;
•Greening the Further Education and Training (FET’s) by working with further education authorities to integrate green skills in the college system to increase the employability of FET graduates. This is being led by the Department of Environmental Affairs with support from SANBI;
•A nine member skills research partnership, led by the Conservation, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sports Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHS SETA) and Rhodes University, which will work towards the alignment of research on environmental skills intelligence, learning pathways and occupations; and
•A national mentoring initiative led by WWF-SA 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, Chief Executive Officer of the CATHS SETA.
The scarcity of green skills has significant impact on the management of natural resources, such as water and energy. At the NESS 2012, the EWSETA3 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 addressing the skills backlog. This can only be achieved through effective partnerships, “said Candice Moodley, Marketing and Research Officer for EWSETA.
Given the fundamental importance of the environment to sustain human development of all South Africans, the delegates of NESS 2012 declared their commitment to establishing greater cohesion across systems and making explicit the people and skills dimensions in all sustainability and green economy deliberations.