Green Skills: Preparing Learners for the Green Economy

The world is transitioning into a greener economy. This transition will not only impact existing jobs but it will create new ones. Some of those jobs do not yet exist or are not well established. How well prepared new graduates will be to face the green economy relies on universities’ approach.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has predicted the creation of 100 million new jobs by 2030 by ensuring a green transition. This represents another challenge for higher education. Universities must respond to these changes and they must respond fast. 

Thus, it is paramount that learners develop the green skills needed to thrive in this changing economy. “We’ll see demand [for green skills] increase in specific fields. In addition, the shift to a greener economy will impact existing jobs,” according to Dr. Jessica Yarbro, Principal Research Scientist at Pearson.

Dr. Yarbro spoke about how universities can prepare learners to enter and thrive in the green economy, and shared examples that can be used in assessment at the recent virtual REMOTE Summit hosted by Arizona State University.

The session explored research-based ways that universities can adopt in order to prepare learners for their future careers by identifying key green skills and how to teach and assess them. 

According to Pearson Global Learner Survey (2021), 72 percent of learners believe career opportunities in green jobs will increase over the next 10 years, and 91 percent feel it is important to have a positive environmental impact with their career. 

Despite their expectations and preference to be part of a green economy, the survey revealed that 54 percent of learners do not believe they are currently qualified to work in a green job. They believe “not enough is being done to prepare them,” said Dr. Yarbro. The survey students in a variety of countries around the world. 

“If we can provide learners with these skills they can be a powerful force to further accelerate this transition toward a more sustainable economy,” said Dr. Yarbro. 

Green Skills are divided into four main categories: 

Ways of Thinking

  • Systems thinking 
  • Anticipatory/future-oriented thinking
  • Normative thinking 
  • Strategic thinking 
  • Critical thinking 

Personal Skills 

  • Self-awareness
  • Emotional intelligence 
  • Creativity 
  • Integrated problem-solving

Social Skills

  • Collaboration 
  • Networking 
  • Leadership 

Sustainability Knowledge and Topics 

  • Engineering and technology 
  • Design 
  • Building and construction 
  • Urban planning 
  • Science (biology, chemistry, ecology)
  • Law and government 
  • Environmental regulations

Teaching Green Skills 

According to the World Economic Forum, most green skills are being used in unexpected jobs such as fleet managers, data scientists, health workers, construction managers, and technical sales representatives to name a few. 

Dr. Yarbro talked about how faculty can provide direct instruction on specific topics, tools, or procedures that correspond to green knowledge and skills using some practical examples. According to Dr. Yarbro, general practices in teaching green skills include: 

  • Problem/project-based activities: Provide learners with authentic, unstructured tasks. Guide students to explore an open-ended problem or situation and develop a response or solution. This prepares them for the complexity of real-world sustainability challenges 
  • Learner ownership: To allow learners to determine the actions they will take, ask questions that arise from their process, and provide opportunities for self-reflection
  • Interdisciplinary: Expose learners to different disciplines and ways of thinking, and make sustainability more real and relevant 

In addition, she suggested ways for assessment including self-/peer-assessment, conventional test, performance observation, and situation-/scenario-based assessment.

Dr. Yarbro mentioned a rather interesting example for assessing green skills which was developed by researchers at Arizona State University. The ASU’s assessment project on simulated professional situations require students to take roles in the following: 

  • Role-play sustainability consultants
  • Review an economic initiated proposal
  • Simulated city council meeting: Actors’ script includes prompts to elicit sustainability knowledge and skills 
  • Students’ responses analyzed against a rubric 

LinkedIn has warned that demand for green talent is outstripping supply. The urgency for graduates who possess green skills is imminent. Students increasingly will choose programs that offer the green skills they need as they enter the workforce. 

For more articles from the REMOTE Summit, see: 

Urban Serving Universities are Disrupting Structures for 21st Century Skills

The Metaversity: Leveraging a Shared Learning Platform 

Faculty Needs to Be Drivers of Institutional Change

Lessons Learned: 8 Strategies for Effective Instruction 

Supporting Experimental Pedagogy with Social Animation Tools