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Green Skills Research Programme

Rhodes ELRC and its partners including Wits REAL welcome participation in the community of ‘green skills’ researchers, studying skills for sustainability and capacity building for environmental work. In this research trajectory, which goes back to the 1990s, three generations of ‘green skills’ research can be discerned, including post-school curriculum studies, studies into environmental learning pathways and career pathways, and studies into the demand for green skills in a variety of industrial, social and government contexts.

In an example of green skills curriculum studies, the ELRC recently contributed to the Southern African Universities Association (SARUA) Mapping Study on how universities are responding to Climate Compatible Development. The SARUA study  mapped 60 universities  across the SADC region, identifying where further research, curriculum innovation and policy development is needed.

Green skills research at the ELRC is both academic and applied in nature. It has contributed to policy and a number of national and sectoral skills plans including the Biodiversity Human Capital Development Strategy (see www.greenmatter.co.za).

In partnership with industry and government, including various Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) and the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), the ELRC conducted several studies on learning pathways, e.g. the pathways followed by environmental engineers and scientists, and on potential learning pathways out of poverty via the Expanded Public Works Programmes. For an overview and depth exploration of pathways studies, see the SAQA Bulletin Vol 17(1) 2017.

In 2009-2010 Rhodes partnered with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to produce the National Environmental Sector Skills Plan, and the publication soon after of the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS III) and the Green Economy Accord (2011), further pointed to the need for a concerted effort to produce green skills in South Africa.  The environment, sustainability and the green economy emerged as cross-cutting concerns which require attention across all sectors, and in formal education from schooling through to higher and further education and teacher education as well as workplace learning.

In 2015 DEA and the DBSA, through the Green Fund, allocated funding to a research consortium led by the ELRC, to build the capacity of the national system to do green skills research.  Rhodes teamed up with the Centre for Researching Education and Labour (REAL) at Wits and the African Climate Development Institute at UCT, as well as WWF South Africa, to undertake a number of studies in sectors like Mining, Agriculture, Chemicals and Public Procurement. These studies (see www.greenskills.co.za) were able to identify the need for green skills through a multi-level methodology including macro and meso level driver analyses, extended value chain analyses and workplace observations. For an indication of the methods and models used, refer to Enabling Green Skills: Pathways to Sustainable Development: A Source Book to Support Skills Planning for Green Economies and a paper by Rosenberg, Ramsarup, Gumede and Lotz-Sisitka, published in the South African Journal of Education (2016) (Building capacity for green just and sustainable futures - a new knowledge field requiring transformative research methodology).

As part of the system building initiative, a short course on Green Skills Research and Planning has been developed and offered to skills planners and researchers. This blended course (face to face and online delivery) is accredited by Rhodes University and was offered for the first time in 2017-2018 through a partnership between Wits REAL and Rhodes ELRC.

Green skills ‘demand’ studies comprise an exciting new knowledge field, that combines expertise in the environmental sector with expertise in education, training and industry analysis.  In 2019-2020 we aim to study skills for sustainable livelihoods and the need for green skills in the context of the fourth industrial revolution. We invite interested researchers to contact us with proposals for studies that would further address the broad knowledge interest outlined here.


Last Modified: Thu, 20 Dec 2018 09:25:13 SAST