Green economy

Empowering young people with green skills and bringing renewable energy to schools.

Anwar and Dina, two young Syrian refugees, show their inventions of battery-powered lamps at a refugee camp in Jordan.
UNICEF/UN0206982/Herwig

1. How can we provide young people with skill-development opportunities in the rapidly growing renewable energy sector?

The Issue

Imbalances persist between skills offered and skills needed for the green transition. According to a recent ILO study, this skills mismatch is identified as an obstacle to the greening of the economy in 21 of 27 countries surveyed.

While the on-ramp for many career paths are clear (such as becoming a doctor, lawyer, nurse, electrician, etc.), these pathways are not always immediately clear for entering a career in the renewable energy sector.

Moreover, many countries are not adjusting their educational institutions to prepare for the green transition. Up to a third of the countries surveyed, most of them low and middle income countries, have yet to mainstream environmental sustainability in their skills development measures.

The Opportunity

The transition to a green economy could generate 15 to 60 million additional jobs globally over the next two decades and lift tens of millions of workers out of poverty.

Young people are well positioned to invest in learning green skills. With the growing demand, the benefits of having these skills are likely to pay off for decades to come.

Young people have also demonstrated an interest in working in this sector, because of both the earning opportunity as well as the positive impact they can have on society.

Only modest modifications are required to existing training programmes and curricula in order to make the skills learned applicable to green jobs.

Many countries are increasingly establishing, or planning to establish, specific bodies to address the green transition. Such bodies could mainstream the skills demanded of the renewable energy sector into existing mechanisms for skills development for young people.

Already, where they exist, specific bodies to discuss skills for the green transition have led to positive changes in training.

A group of men work together to move a solar panel onto a rooftop.
UNICEF/UNI111960/Asselin

2. How can we provide renewable energy to off-grid schools?

The Issue

Today, 1 out of 5 upper and lower secondary schools worldwide are not electrified. Sub-Saharan Africa is the hardest hit: nearly 1 in 2 secondary schools in the region lack electricity.

Educational facilities require energy for lighting, cooking, heating, cooling, water delivery and purification, as well as information and communication technology (ICT), including for disaster and medical emergencies. Evidence shows that youth literacy levels tend to be lower in countries with electrification rates below 80 per cent.

Without a change in course, the expansion of the electricity grid will be limited by the same factors that have held it back in the past: infrastructure cost, low demand in rural areas, and a lack of political will.

The Opportunity

The price of renewable energy will soon be cheaper than most traditional modalities, owing to improvements in technology, a competitive market and more experienced developers in the industry. Small-scale photovoltaics (PV) and storage have started to gain traction as primary energy sources for remote infrastructure and communities. Between 2010 and 2017, there was an 82% cost decline for PV modules and 76% for stationary Lithium Ion battery packs.

With cheaper costs, leapfrogging the traditional infrastructure becomes possible.

The renewable energy sector is experiencing rapid job growth across developed and developing economies. Globally, the renewable energy sector had 10.3 million jobs

in 2017, an increase of 5.3 per cent from 2016.

Access to sustainable energy can also be used to address other community services, such as clean water and sanitation, health and emergency services.

School attendance and student performance levels have been shown to increase with higher electrification rates. Electrification allows schools to create a better learning environment through improved lighting and equipment, including ICT. Electrification also allows for extended operating hours, facilitating teacher preparation and training after-hours. Recruiting and retaining teachers in remote regions are also closely linked to the schools’ electrification rate.

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