Green Skills for Youth towards Sustainable Development

By Sylvia Sefakor Senu, Economic Analyst, UNDP Ghana

August 11, 2023

A worker of a young entrepreneur (Felix of Trisolace), supported by UNDP, working in one of their vegetable farms as part of their sustainable agriculture initiatives in Accra. The support falls under the UNDP's Youth Innovation for Sustainable Development (YISD) Challenge held in Ghana.

Photo @Praise Nutakor/UNDP

The demand for green skills is growing as the world transitions to a more sustainable economy. By 2030, an estimated 8.4 million jobs will be created for young people by the green transition. This is expected to have a spiral of additional jobs created by each green job at an estimated 1.4 more jobs. However, an estimated 60 percent of young people globally will lack the skills necessary to thrive in the green economy in 2030. 

This is why the theme for this year’s International Youth Day “Green Skills for Youth: Towards a Sustainable World” is particularly important. The theme is a wake-up call not only for the youth but also for policy makers and other development stakeholders especially in Ghana where an estimated 83.4 percent of youth between the ages of 15-24 lack digital skills.  This is the opportune time young people need to be sensitized and be well-equipped with green skills to navigate this changing environment.

Green Skills and the Future of Jobs

Green skills encompass the knowledge, abilities, values, and attitudes needed to live in, develop, and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society. These include skills in areas such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, waste management, water conservation, sustainable agriculture, and environmental protection. The jobs of the future which are largely green in nature also require a number of soft skills that deal with the multi-dimensional and complex nature of the problems the world is faced with. Skillsets such as problem-solving, communication, and green projects often require collaboration of people from different disciplines as well as adaptability and agility.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) advocate for sustainability throughout the three pillars of development i.e., economic, social, and environment. Specifically, SDG 9 on Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure includes a target to upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries. This is to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes by 2030. 

The transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy requires systemic changes that will result not only in new products and services but also changes in production processes and business models. The greening of the economy will have significant impacts on jobs and inevitably change the skillsets required and the tasks involved in many of the existing occupations. We therefore need the following conscious efforts to adequately prepare the youth:

Bridge the technology divide 

Empowering young people with digital and soft skills that will make them ready for the jobs of the future is critical. This requires strengthening of the capacities of formal and informal avenues where young people acquire digital and soft skills across the country.

Deal with occupational gender stereotypes

Considerations for existing gender dynamics and biases in the training and occupational setup must be dealt with. This will ensure that females are not left behind as green jobs are more likely to be created in male dominated jobs.

Intensify education and sensitization on climate change

There is the need to sensitize young people on climate change and the importance of innovating green solutions to address the impacts. Some young people supported by UNDP in Ghana like Christopher Gyan of Sesa Recycling and Makafui Awuku of Mckingtouch Africa are already helping communities to adopt sustainable practices by recycling plastic waste, employing many in this green job field. To be effective, young people also need to embrace diverse values, worldviews, and knowledge, including scientific knowledge, indigenous knowledge and local knowledge as part of the education and practice.

Take decisive measures and coordinated policy actions

Policy actors need to put in place coordinated policies that clamp down on activities that are harmful to the environment. We need to amplify, eulogize, and celebrate the efforts of the youth and organizations taking practical measures to ensure environmental sustainability.

To conclude, some Ghanaian youth are already demonstrating commitment to building a more sustainable future. The efforts of individual young Ghanaians who are adopting sustainable practices by taking action to reduce their own carbon footprints by planting trees, cleaning the beaches, using solar energy, recycling, and advocating for the adoption of sustainable practices is commendable and is an inspiration worth emulating by all.

The theme for International Youth Day 2023 is a great reminder not to relent on efforts but intensify actions to seek the ‘knowledge, abilities, values, and attitudes needed to live in, develop and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society for all Ghanaians.