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Skills and innovation needed to fuel green growth

Skills and innovation needed to fuel green growth
23-06-14 / Staff Writer

Skills and innovation needed to fuel green growth

Four key drivers of change to a greener economy and labour market demands

Environmental degradation including climate change, biodiversity loss and diminishing water resources;Heightened consumer awareness and behaviours around the conservation of energy and our natural resources. We have seen an increase in demand for environmentally friendly and energy efficient products;

Government Policy and regulation which was initially propelled by environmental degradation and global shifts towards a greener economy. Regulation can be instrumental in reshaping consumer behaviours and providing the technology and funding to incentivize the transition to a greener economy; and

Financial investment by government into green projects allows for job creation and tax incentives reduce the initial start-up costs for entrepreneurs and consumers who adopt green technologies.

Emerging green skills and jobs

The biggest changes are occurring to existing occupations. These changes are happening at all levels of qualifications and spread across all sectors. Action is needed to ensure that training is relevant to the labour market needs which are fuelled by green growth. There are job losses in carbon- intensive industries and the displacement of low - skilled workers must be managed. The green restructuring in South Africa has seen the decreasing demand for some occupations and skills sets and an increase in demand for others in the following industries:

Renewable energy industry - SA is poised to become one of the key producers of renewable energy and has implemented the Renewable Energy Power Producer Programme. The programme has a goal of a production of a clean and sustainable power supply using our natural resources of solar and wind energy. Government recently updated the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010 - 2030 and one of the key decisions was to delay the decision of building new nuclear power stations after 2025. The focus will be on developing renewable energy capacity from wind; solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power. Targets have been set of 10 000 Gwh for renewable energy supply; 20 000 new jobs and a GDP contribution of R1.071 billion rand. Opportunities exist for Solar PV installers, qualified electrical engineers, turbine technicians and project managers.

Building industry - Residential and commercial buildings contribute 7.9% of the GHG emissions globally. New buildings provide an opportunity to implement energy- efficient practices in heating systems, renewable energy sources and building insulation. Retrofitting of existing buildings is a market that is not fully exploited by entrepreneurs due to the shortage of skilled technicians to consult in this area and to implement the retrofitting. Government needs to also provide start up subsidies for entrepreneurs and incentivize the consumer as part of the green job creation initiative.

Automotive industry - workers need to be trained to adjust to new technologies that are fuel efficient. Farming - South Africa is self-sufficient in all the major agricultural products and also exports food ensuring our food security. Farmers need to be skilled in new methods of sustainable farming and in severe climate changes, skilled to adapt to new crop growth. The organic farming market is also being fuelled by heightened consumer awareness.

Management and protection of the environment which includes recycling; biodiversity and eco- tourism management.

Identifying Green Skills Shortages across sectors

Utilisation of our natural resources requires skilled people. South Africa was identified in the ILO report: Skills for Green Jobs - A Global View, as one of the countries that has a very structured system to assess skills shortages, as opposed to the ad hoc methods adopted by other countries. There is no central green skills planning system, as the view is that green skills affect all sectors and green skills planning should be embodied within each sector skills plans developed by the SETAs. Each sectoral scarce skills list is then combined into the National Scarce Skills list. The challenge is then to implement a well-coordinated national response plan to take advantage of the opportunities and mitigate the threats we face in the green restructuring of the economy.

The Insurance Sector Training Authority (INSETA) has identified that the core skills that are affected in the sector include entrepreneurship, risk assessment, risk surveying, underwriting and investment management. The sustainability of the insurance sector is adversely affected by the risk of climate change, with over R 2 billion worth of claims paid out as a result of damage caused by severe weather conditions in 2013. The insurance industry also faces a challenge which drives higher insurance payout costs in motor accident claims. This is due to a lack of skilled technicians to conduct specialised repairs on accident damaged motor vehicles.

The automotive repair industry mostly buys and fits new parts instead of repairing same where possible to do so. This is not a sustainable and environmentally friendly practice and needs attention. Buildings which are energy efficient are much safer and can obtain discounted insurance premiums. A challenge in SA for underwriters is that building inspectors and plan approvers are not highly skilled in dealing with new green technologies and it poses a risk for insurers who rely on their approval. The short term insurers also play a crucial role in green geyser replacement and hopefully we see increased incentives by government for this initiative.

"The sustainability of the insurance sector is adversely affected by the risk of climate change, with over R 2 billion worth of claims paid out as a result of damage caused by severe weather conditions in 2013."
Author:Sharon Snell is COO and CSO of the Insurance Sector Training Authority

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