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To coincide with the 2022 Scotsman Green Skills Conference, college principal, Simon Hewitt, describes how Scotland’s colleges are providing skills for the green revolution and putting partnerships at the heart of future success.

Net Zero response

Dundee and Angus College

Borders College

North East Scotland College

Flexible Workforce Development Fund

Skills Development Scotland

Every day, we hear about the climate emergency, but what does that mean to you?

For many, the crisis can appear overwhelming, and so big it can seem there is little that can be done. But, in some ways, that’s where the solution to achieving net zero by 2045 lies … in the little things we can all do.

It’s easy to see climate change solely as a problem while forgetting the opportunities it can offer through new industries and technologies. As one of the lead principals for the climate emergency for Colleges Scotland, it’s my job to champion and inspire the sector towards achieving a more sustainable Scotland.

So, regardless of the business you’re in, what’s your plan, and how can your local college help?

Working together to future-proof teams

Colleges are the country’s main provider of skills training. So, with the needs of business and industry constantly evolving to meet the demands of tackling, not only climate change but emerging technologies, it’s vital the sector works ever closer with employers to ensure we have a workforce with fit-for-purpose skills for tomorrow’s workspaces.

Our partner, Energy Skills Partnership (ESP), is a key strategic link which ensures colleges adapt the skills they provide to meet the changing requirements of employers. This guidance, support and interconnection with business makes ESP one of the best value-for-money investments coming from the Scottish Funding Council and will be the lead vehicle for the sector in the delivery of the Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan.

The green revolution will mean lifelong learning will be a necessity for everyone entering the workplace today. ESP ensures our colleges are equipped to meet local business needs, large and small, for both school leavers and those currently in employment.

As a result, we’re training today’s plumbers to install modern heat pumps, construction workers to build energy efficient homes and offices and electricians to create the infrastructure needed for the switch to electric cars.

At Dundee and Angus College, we’ve created an electric vehicle and hybrid training centre, allowing businesses to prepare for the imminent ban on the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles. Otherwise, what becomes of today’s mechanics?

Across the sector we’re training new workforces to build the net zero industries we need to meet the 2045 targets. One recently approved offshore windfarm will create 5,000 jobs. And many more have been given the green light. Colleges are equipping thousands of students with the competencies those windfarms will need in everything from basic management and logistics to construction and fabrication.

Learning for sustainability is also embedded in all our curriculum. For example, D&A’s new hair and beauty training facility will be a truly sustainable salon, teaching learners everything from safe disposal of chemicals and laundry management to procuring products that are not tested on animals.

Elsewhere, Borders College recently provided a free sustainable construction awareness course attended by students and local tradespeople as part of its green skills training programme. The course provided opportunities for employers and businesses to reskill their staff in sustainable practices. The training focused on practices which help build energy efficient homes, concentrating on the four pillars of sustainable construction; insulate, build tight, ventilate right and low-carbon heating systems.

And North East Scotland College created a bespoke wind technician training programme, designed for apprentices of energy giant Vestas which is already seeing students perform to industry standards. The two-year, five-day-a-week course will ensure apprentices have the engineering skills and competence to work safely on both onshore and offshore windfarms.

So, colleges are pivoting towards the needs of industry and the aim is to increase those meaningful partnerships to equip even more students with the competencies they need to meet the demands of employers on their doorstep and beyond.

Training for Net Zero

Dundee and Angus College recently launched a range of courses which can be funded through the Scottish Government’s Flexible Workforce Development Fund. The fund gives levy-paying businesses access to up to £15,000 of training, with SMEs eligible for training up to £5,000.

With three levels of bespoke courses for businesses of all sizes and sectors, businesses can learn everything from measuring and managing their carbon footprint and motivating cultural change within the workforce to developing a net zero carbon reduction plan.

Our students, our community

Let’s not forget the student population and its role. By creating college environments where sustainability is a core part of what we do, we can instil values which last a lifetime whether by making individuals consider what they do with rubbish, how high they fill a kettle or when to switch off a light.

That kind of mindset is what every individual, community and business will need if we are to achieve climate change goals. Starting with the small things all of us can do we can achieve the big things we strive for … like net zero.

Our success is your success

Colleges have the learning tools Scotland needs to deliver our green targets and to ensure we maximise the economic benefits from the changes we create. Our students – of all ages – will have the skills to make that happen.

But it can’t happen in isolation. Every one of us, employers; politicians; communities; students; stakeholders like ESP and Skills Development Scotland, need to work in partnership. Colleges can deliver the competencies needed. And our success will be Scotland’s success.