Green Skills on demand

Nov 20, 2023

Copyright: Umweltbundesamt/B. Gröger

In the light of a regional workshop about Green Education, which was recently held in Sarajevo, the Umweltbundesamt (Environment Agency Austria) experts Daniela Zanini-Freitag and Peter Tramberend provided information about EU4Green plans concerning the cross-cutting issue and the importance of Green Education for the Western Balkans and Europe.

  1. Green Education is one of the central topics of EU4Green and a priority area of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans. Why is it important for the European Union and what’s its importance for the region?

Daniela Zanini-Freitag: It started as a bigger topic some years ago, when the European Union highlighted the need to invest in re-skilling and up-skilling of people, with the intent to generate expertise for green jobs ahead. It was mainly aimed at renewable energies, but it later spread over different sectors. While it started with university education in mind primarily, over time – as conditions and needs changed – the focus shifted to vocational training, such as education and building capacities of solar technicians.

Green education is a cross-cutting issue, also in EU4Green and in the Green Agenda for Western Balkans. We see from the feedback at our workshops that besides technical; transversal and meta-cognitive skills are needed are needed in all sectors of the labour market. One of the issues supported by the participants was the need for training of Urban Waste Water Treatment Plant operators.

Our aim in the project is to provide portfolios on Life-long learning probably through the tool of micro-credentials as short, stackable and flexible learning modules. This helps Western Balkan economies to generate experts who can in their turn contribute and set necessary steps supporting the Green Agenda. This will enable the economies to build synergies with the European approaches to sustainable environmental protection, as a joint effort to protect the environment and create sustainable solutions.

  1. How does that translate to project activities, outputs and results?

Daniela Zanini-Freitag: By providing knowledge, experience and good practice models from Europe, Austria and the Region and by involving our experienced partner WUS (World University Service), we want to co-create Life-long learning pathways in the Western Balkan economies, possibly through Micro-credentials and tailor-made training modules. This allows people to qualify for much needed positions in i.e. waste water management, circular economy and other pillars of EU4Green. This way, the landscape of the job market can be improved, but even more importantly, capacities of people in the Region are built to prepare them for a long-term transition to greener economies and healthier environment, all as part of the region’s integration in the EU.

The Environment Agency Austria has significant knowledge and know-how in the thematic pillars and your organization plays an important role in the project. How does your experience and institutional knowledge contribute to the realization of EU4Green project?

Peter Tramberend: Probably the biggest advantage of the Environment Agency Austria is its wealth in technical experts and the fact that it covers a very broad spectrum of different topics. Thus, it can cover all topics in the environmental field and out of the 600+ employees, around two-thirds are technical and scientific staff. Another plus of this Austrian expert institution is that it has a lot of senior staff, meaning people who have worked there for a long time and they have tremendous experience and institutional memory. On international level, we are very active. Until November this year, the Environment Agency Austria has implemented more than 110 successful twinning projects with EU Accession Countries, New Member States, and with several European Neighbourhood countries East (Georgia, Ukraine) and South (Algeria, Jordan, Morocco, Egypt). Our experience in training other governments, associations, institutions etc. is vast, while there is also an extensive experience in working in the Western Balkans region. As an organisation, we are very happy that we can take part in EU4Green and use this regional experience to get the most out of this project.

  1. What do you see as the biggest potential in the six WB economies, if looking at the implementation of EU4Green and the GAWB?

Daniela Zanini-Freitag: We travelled to Bosnia and Herzegovina for this Green Education workshop, while Peter has also travelled around the region, visiting Albania and Montenegro. The region is stunning. Bosnia’s mountains, rivers and lakes are fascinating. The nature is impressive. But it needs care. Green tourism is a big opportunity, provided that natural resources are protected and maintained properly, for which also green education is needed. Focusing on this, investing in it, can contribute to the prosperity of the region, the development of the economies, but as a side effect it can also attract more young people to stay and build lives here, instead of looking for opportunities abroad. The region has many more opportunities and potentials and by recognising the importance of the green transition and investing efforts in the implementation of the Green Agenda, there is opportunity for different sectors to develop and succeed.