Green technology skills vital to climate change fight

Climate change

Fast-track curricula with bias towards green skills alongside funding and supportive legislation.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Those of us in technology space sometimes get lost in our own echo chambers. We use buzzwords that are not accessible to those outside our world. For instance, the issue of “green tech skills” is a hot topic in our sector currently — much like people enjoy bandying about terms like green jobs and digital jobs.

Because it is such a moot discussion, I recommend that those dabbling in matters technology, especially women, to help break down the terminology as part of efforts to attract more talent into the sector besides making information available to a wider public.

That aside, a key conversation today is how we can use green skills and digital skills to tackle climate change. After all, technology is about solving the world’s biggest challenges.

I noted this recently at the 2024 Mobile World Congress (MWC) held in Barcelona, Spain, where the topic of green Information and communications technology (ICT)s and how they may help tackle climate change-related issues was extensively discussed.

Several experts and technology-focussed companies, including many from or operating in Africa, stressed the fact that technology and technical expertise will be essential in battling the climate change challenge in order to create a more sustainable and ecologically friendly future. This is crucial for the world and Africa in particular, as I will explain later in this article.

It was cited in a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that to combat challenges brought about by climate change, the world needed to build a workforce pipeline that is adept in green skills and digital skills.

This means that universities and technology companies must train (and re-train) people in areas cpncerned with energy, the circular economy, climate data science, water management, green building design, policy and regulations, and partnership, and a host of other thematic areas, to enable the present and future workforce spearhead the shift towards sustainability.

The acquisition and use of ‘green skills,’ or the know-how and abilities is central to this transformation.

Although this will be onerous, it can be accomplished given the growing demand for green skills in the workplace. According to LinkedIn’s Global Green Skills Report 2023, just one in eight professionals possess one or more green skills.

The same data states that LinkedIn job advertisements requiring at least one green talent increased by a median of 15.2 per cent between February 2022 and February 2023. Compared with the workforce average, the median LinkedIn hiring rate for employees possessing at least one green talent was 29 per cent higher during the same period.

Those of us from Africa at the summit were particularly intrigued by Huawei’s Green Development Summit and its focus on the developing markets like Kenya where Information and communications technology is central to the government’s economic transformation agenda and the company a major player in the evolution of the country’s infrastructure over the past two decades.

The session challenged stakeholders across the board to join hands in fast-tracking the transition through educational institutions, on-the-job training programmes, and refresher professional development efforts incorporated in sustainability-focused curricula, with a bias for green skills.

Employers and industry stakeholders also have a critical role to play in creating a culture of ongoing learning and skill development so their employees may gain the competences required to spearhead the shift.

On its part, the government will need to establish a supportive atmosphere for the acquisition of green talents by providing funding for education and training, ensuring supportive laws and regulations, encouraging collaborations between business, academia, and other interested parties, and facilitating the sharing of best practices and expertise.

Suffice to say that to effectively address the challenges presented by the climate crisis, society must go beyond just about cutting greenhouse gas emissions to using innovation to revolutionise industries, transportation systems, and energy systems. This can be accomplished through the development of a strong human capital base including more women, which admittedly, is currently in short supply.

- Maureen Mwaniki is an engineer and Chairlady of the Women in Technology Kenya