Jennifer Rudd, Senior Lecturer at Swansea University and member of the Challenge Group said “Enabling a just, net zero transition through education and skills is different to any of the other challenges launched so far and goes beyond carbon counting or new infrastructure. Through this challenge we have the opportunity to shape the minds of those who will shape the future, not just through the new Curriculum for Wales but also by thinking about re-training and upskilling the current work force to align with a just transition.”
Ben Rawlence, Director of Black Mountains College and member of the Challenge Group said “Public education is an essential cross-cutting challenge in achieving net zero or any large-scale social transformation; if people can understand the crisis then they can understand the opportunity for a just transition for all to a more sustainable and resilient Wales.”
Our provocation and vision
Through initial dialogue, we have produced a provocation piece to illustrate our vision and inspire thoughts on what could education, jobs and work look like across Wales by 2035? towards achieving net zero and the ambitions of the Well-being of Future Generations Act.
Climate change education should be taught in schools as a mandatory subject (like Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE)) to give all students in Key Stage (KS) 1-4 a basic understanding of the anthropogenic impact on the wider world (both the nature and climate crises). Information should be age and stage appropriate, with a focus on practical actions that we can take and what the coming changes mean for societal transformation, focusing on social solutions, not just technological ones. This approach will engender action and hope in young people. Climate change is not the end of the world but the start of a shift in how we progress as a society from this point. Climate change is a symptom of unsustainable practices over centuries and a learning opportunity to do things differently. Sustainability is threaded through all subjects in the new Curriculum and weight must be given to the teaching of this.
As KS5 students’ paths diverge, A-Levels in sustainability/climate specific areas should be available. College courses and vocational routes specific to training up people in future skills must also be accessible to all learners. For students who do not choose climate/sustainability specific courses, general climate change education should continue in the same way students have PSHE / maths and English or complete a General Studies/Welsh baccalaureate qualification do currently.
For students who choose university level degrees, short modules on climate/sustainability should be mandatory for all students and tailored to the degree option wherever possible. All degree courses should have a ‘sustainability audit’ to ensure that they are fit for purpose, take account of the physical realities of the emerging climate change impacts and not propagating high carbon, ecologically destructive worldviews and practices.
Education should be accessible for all learners, regardless of intellectual ability, disabilities, mental health status, race, gender and sexuality. All learners should feel welcome to contribute to the climate discussion and be empowered to be part of the solution.
We need baseline climate change education and public information across society. The government should allocate resources and give priority to public awareness campaigns aimed at promoting climate-friendly behaviours, adopting a strategy akin to the one employed during the COVID pandemic. Lifelong adult learning on topics such as greenwashing/carbon offsetting, carbon literacy, circular economy, buildings retrofit awareness, sustainable travel, growing food and biodiversity, will lead to a Wales-wide understanding of the current climate and nature crisis and actions that can be taken to adapt and mitigate the worst of these dual crises. This will also give rise to support for further measures taken by Welsh Government around buildings, transport, education, agriculture etc.
For those in employment baseline climate change education should be provided through annual, mandatory Continuing Professional Development (CPD), tailored for specific roles. This can be similar to carbon literacy training but should go beyond carbon alone. Continued education and lifelong learning in the areas of solutions to the climate and ecological crises should be seen as “the norm”, with all of the workforce feeling a sense of responsibility, not just leaving the responsibility to environmental and sustainability specialists. Reciprocal relationships between the employment sector and universities and colleges will be key to developing new modules that ensure students are taught up to date and necessary skills for the just transition.
Those in jobs that are public facing, e.g. government, newsreaders and weather forecasters, teachers should undertake more intense, role specific, training to help them understand the climate and ecological crisis and how it impacts everyone in society. This should be seen as akin to safeguarding or first aid at work, disability or Equality, Diversity and Inclusion training.
People working in the NHS need more specific training on the impacts of the climate crisis on the population’s health, climate positive procurement and climate positive waste disposal. Those working as builders, in waste disposal, agriculture, catering and Research & Development need specialist waste disposal and procurement training.
All workers in high carbon or ecologically destructive employment (e.g., fossil-fuel infrastructure, mining, production and supply chain, high carbon manufacturing, fossil-fuel based transport etc.) should have the opportunity to re-train in low carbon jobs of their choosing, either through colleges or on-the-job traineeships. Financial status should not be a barrier to re-training. Government subsidies of future employment (e.g,. battery manufacture, heat pump installation, electric-based transport manufacturing, circular economy-based design) should ensure that employment continues within Wales and that re-skill traineeships will be available. Cross-cutting social policy such as Universal Basic Income, Universal Services, a four-day week and entitlements to lifelong learning should be considered in the light of re-training needs and workforce transition planning.
Our request for your evidence and views
Help us identify a pathway forward for Wales towards net zero through education, skills and work by 2035 or sooner. In this we are concerned with:
- How we educate students in compulsory education from the early years to 6th Form in climate change education
- How we incorporate/expand current vocational training programmes for skills for a just transition
- How we address Climate Change Education (CCE) at university level
- How to develop and roll out lifelong CCE learning so that all of the population of Wales is aware of the impacts of the dual climate and nature crises and what adaptations are required.
- How to develop the skills required for a just transition away from high carbon industries and into low carbon industries
- How to create specific training pathways for specialist public-facing careers
e.g. journalists, to enable them to better communicate the dual crises
- Where initiatives such as universal basic income, 4 day working week, universal services could support the just transition in Wales.
- Anything else you think is relevant to this call and is not covered by the exclusion criteria below.
We are not including energy usage, buildings, school dinners or digital connectivity in our work. Whilst we acknowledge their importance, they will be covered by other challenge within the Wales Net Zero by 2035 Challenge Groups
The Group welcomes the submission of relevant views, case studies and evidence, which can be submitted via the Group’s website: https://netzero2035.wales/submit-evidence/evidence-submission-portal/.
Please note that the Challenge Group is looking for evidence of what can be done by 2035 and what would need to be in place for that to happen. This call for evidence will be open from 8th November 2023 – 20th December 2023.
The Group will invite further feedback on its draft conclusions prior to presenting its report to the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru in the summer of 2024. More details will be provided to respondents in due course.