Spotlight on sustainability: Where we are and where we’re going | NCFE

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Spotlight on sustainability: Where we are and where we’re going

NCFE is starting the New Year with a focus on some of the bigger issues facing the education sector and society in 2022. To kick off this series we are looking at sustainability. Specifically, we’ll consider how the education sector has responded and what we are doing as an educational charity and leader in vocational and technical learning to make sure we embed sustainable practices across our portfolio of products and services.  

Looking back to last year, there was a huge amount of work from organisations of all sizes linking sustainability and education. From the magnitude of COP26 to the more specialist work of the Campaign for Learning, focusing on the role of post-16 education and skills in its report on Racing to Net Zero, support for sustainability in education has never been greater. The environmental debate is commanding immediate focus – and education is key to helping people understand and manage the effects of climate change.  

At NCFE, we’ve been working hard over the past 18 months to make sure we’re offering learners and providers every opportunity to put green skills at the front and centre of their thinking. We’ve developed some fantastic sustainability-focused qualifications and will soon be revealing further details of our plans for the year ahead. Throughout 2022 and beyond, we will be working closely with our partners and committing to weave sustainability across our products and services. 

But for now, we’re looking back at 2021 and reflecting on just some of the work being done across the industry to raise awareness of climate change. 

Key achievements from 2021 

In November last year, the Department for Education (DfE) published its draft strategy for education and children’s services on sustainability and climate change. It was launched with a vision to make the UK the world-leading education sector in sustainability and climate change by 2030, an ambition that NCFE fully supports.  

Back in October, the Association of Colleges (AoC) announced its Green College Commitment, which set out the critical role of colleges in achieving net zero and biodiversity goals. Further climate-focused education research was commissioned, with important interventions from key players in the sector such as the Education and Training Foundation’s research on Experiences of Education for Sustainable Development in the Further Education and Training Sector.  

The most high-profile environmental event of 2021 was undoubtedly COP26 taking place in Glasgow last November, and with education being a key theme throughout. The UN summit on climate change action covered a range of crucial topics including climate education and youth empowerment, girls' education and climate adaptation and how schools can shape the future. Many of these topics have set the agenda for another important year for sustainability and green thinking. 

Looking forward  

Looking ahead, there are several key dates to be aware of in 2022. In April, the DfE will publish its full Sustainability & Climate Change Strategy, followed by the publication of A net zero society: scenarios and pathways later in the year – a report which will examine how social and behavioural changes will affect our path to net zero, informing the government’s long-term strategy. 

WorldSkills UK’s Spotlight on Green Jobs event will take place 9 - 10 March, with NCFE as headline sponsor. It will bring together the UK’s leading employers and apprentices to inspire young people from all walks of life to consider the vocational pathways which will lead them to green careers. 

Net Zero Week will be held from 2 - 8 July, highlighting the challenge ahead and providing expert advice and information on how we can all benefit from making changes here in the UK. And of course, COP27 takes place in November.  

What NCFE is doing right now 

One of the key outputs of COP26 was the Glasgow Climate Pact, which highlights the need to work together to deliver greater action from a combination of thinking and doing. We believe that movements need collaborators, and that providing learners with skills in sustainability will play a vital role in equipping future generations to collectively tackle the negative effects of climate change.  

We are currently developing ways to complement our existing programmes, and are already offering pathways for those wanting to gain a qualification in sustainability. These include: 

The Level 4 qualification is an accredited course developed with National Energy Action, the national fuel poverty charity, to provide a practical understanding of a range of low carbon and renewable technologies and how they can help people living in fuel poverty. This would be of interest for people engaging with or supporting low income and vulnerable consumers on low carbon or renewable heat and power – including housing providers, advice agencies and installers. 

Our standalone Environmental Awareness unit is an effective way for centres to embed green thinking within a curriculum offer, or alongside other programmes of study, for both young people and adults, introducing sustainability as an integral part of any learning. 

Green goals for the upcoming year 

Our plans for 2022 are to add more products and services to our portfolio. In fact, we've now launched our brand new Level 3 Certificate in Championing Sustainability in the Workplace qualification, which will equip learners with the knowledge, skills and understanding to support sustainability in the workplace.

We also hope to see increased clarity of green jobs and pathways for transition into green roles, which are suitable for all education leavers, from young people to adults. People need to know what green jobs are and crucially to be prepared for a future where all jobs will have elements of sustainability within them. We welcome conversations around this topic with a range of stakeholders, including young people. 

The past year will be a hard one to surpass in terms of keeping sustainability high on any agenda, but we’re up for the challenge. We’re looking forward to working closely with new and existing partners and developing stronger links between government, employers, and educational institutions of all types, to make sure we maintain this momentum on sustainability.  

Movements need collaborators and we would love for you to be involved in this journey with us. Please get in touch with us, and one of our team will be able to tell you more. 

We’re looking forward to working closely with new and existing partners and developing stronger links between government, employers, and educational institutions of all types, to make sure we maintain this momentum on sustainability.