Continuing to strengthen sustainability orientation in VET

Hubert Ertl

Dear readers,

Our global climate objectives can only be achieved if comprehensive restructuring processes are successfully undertaken in the electricity and heat generation, buildings and transport sectors. The key task of vocational education and training in this regard is to foster the necessary competencies at all levels including vocational preparation, initial VET and continuing training.

We have to pick up the pace

Considerable progress on the energy transition has already been made worldwide. In Germany, too, as a highly industrialised location, renewable energies are now also a firmly established part of the mix, and they represent a comparatively low-cost resource. Developments in the area of the generation and the use of green hydrogen mean that climate-neutral steel production is no longer a utopian vision. However, overall progress towards climate neutrality has been too slow, both in Germany and in most other countries.

We need more skilled workers

The labour market and qualifications projections, which BIBB draws up at regular intervals in conjunction with the Institute for Employment Research and the Institute of Economic Structural Research, paint a clear picture. The lack of qualified skilled workers is hindering the move to a climate-neutral economic system, particularly in areas highly relevant to the transformation. Examples include the construction industry, the IT sector and the logistics branch. For this reason, endeavours need to focus on the training of skilled workers in these fields. This applies both to initial and continuing VET and to retraining. VET needs to be structured in a more flexible, more inclusive and more effective way in order to become more attractive to the relevant target groups.

 Neither is there any doubt that environmental protection, the climate-neutral economy, the efficient use of energy and resources, avoiding waste, and recycling are topics relevant to all occupations. One point of entry is offered by the standard occupational profile position of “Environmental protection and sustainability”, which is mandatory for all training occupations in the dual system. Such basic knowledge and skills must serve as a basis for setting out these topics in more detail and in a more differentiated and occupationally specific manner. In the area of hydrogen technology, for example, BIBB analyses show that the generation and use of green hydrogen very much tends to lead to the enrichment and upgrading of existing occupational profiles rather than to a need for new training occupations.

We need employment orientation in VESD

The basic principle of employment-oriented competency development is important to the shaping of learning processes within the context of “vocational education and training for sustainable development” (VESD). This principle is derived from the requirements for sustainable business practices in everyday working life and thus opens up relevant knowledge. Knowledge of sustainability is thus prevented from remaining sluggish, i.e. ultimately ineffective for occupational actions. Pedagogically speaking, learning processes must be structured in a way which allows sustainability-oriented knowledge to become directly action-relevant, and this indicates the benefits of cross-disciplinary and integrative treatment of the topic of sustainability. Multifarious tasks for the structuring of future-oriented VET are thus arising. The present issue explores a number of important approaches towards tackling the tasks at hand.

Professor Hubert Ertl
Director of Research and Vice-President of BIBB  

Translation from the German original (published in BWP 4/2023): Martin Kelsey, GlobalSprachTeam, Berlin