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Climate Ready: New skills for a new green economy

Skillnet Ireland’s initiative will help Irish businesses respond to climate change

More than 1,000 businesses and 3,000 workers are set to benefit this year from a new Skillnet Ireland initiative launched last week. Climate Ready is a five-year, €10 million national climate upskilling initiative developed in partnership with industry to equip businesses with the skills they need to respond to climate change. The new initiative is designed to offer Irish businesses the practical skills and insights they need to respond to climate change and to manage the challenges and opportunities presented by the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Climate Ready will offer a number of different pathways for businesses to build sustainable operating models and develop green talent. The Climate Ready Academy will offer a suite of practical and specialised learning supports for businesses in the areas of climate action and sustainability.

The Climate Ready Cluster brings together a group of existing Skillnet Business Networks which are already delivering expertise for Irish businesses in renewable energy and green technology; environmental, water and energy management; and sustainable finance. Climate Ready Insights is a new centralised platform dedicated to helping businesses advance their thinking and actions around sustainable practices and climate change.

The SIMI Skillnet for the motor industry is looking at developing skillsets for people to work on the hybrid cars and electric vehicles of the future

“The green revolution needs to be accompanied by a skills revolution and we see Climate Ready as a launch pad for some great things,” says Skillnet Ireland executive director Tracey Donnery. “New skills will be needed in every sector. People will need technical skills and the entrepreneurial skills to see the opportunities presented by the transition. People will need the data analytics skills to understand what changes are needed in areas like energy sources, supply chains, new ways of marketing, and product design. These cross all sectors. We want to help those businesses starting out on the climate journey to make their businesses more sustainable by providing training and upskilling for staff at all levels.”

Energy system

Climate Ready will leverage the work being done by existing Skillnet Business Networks around the country, she explains. That work includes a report on Ireland’s energy system by MaREI, the SFI Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine, jointly funded by Skillnet Ireland and Wind Energy Ireland through the Green Tech Skillnet with the support of a number of industry partners. The report showed that a net-zero energy system for Ireland is possible by 2050, is cost-effective and has the potential to create more than 50,000 jobs.

“The Design Skillnet is looking at design for the circular economy,” Donnery adds. “The Taste4Success Skillnet is looking at sustainable food production and water usage in the food industry. Nots, the National Organic Training Skillnet, has been working on areas like soil management and land use.

“There is a lot happening in the skillnets around the country and people can be quite surprised when they see what’s happening out in the network. For example, the construction skillnets are working on green building systems and technologies. The SIMI Skillnet for the motor industry is looking at developing skillsets for people to work on the hybrid cars and electric vehicles of the future. And the CILT logistics and transport skillnet is very focused on sustainable supply chains.”

The Sustainability Pass allows staff at all levels to learn about sustainability and climate change and how their actions can make a difference

Water conservation is another area of focus. “We have been training water stewards to conserve water, improve efficiency, reduce costs and protect the environment,” Donnery points out. “And Ireland has enjoyed international success in this area. The Nestlé Wyeth plant in Limerick is the first factory in Ireland and one of only a few in the world to achieve standard platinum certification from the Alliance for Water Stewardship. The company has acknowledged the role of the training they received on the water stewardship programme in that achievement.”

Prosper

The Climate Ready initiative will help companies and individuals acquire the skills required to prosper in the green economy, according to Donnery. “The Climate Ready Academy offers a range of different programmes and tools to support businesses. These include the climate readiness checker self-assessment tool to help businesses see where they are at in terms of sustainability. The Sustainability Pass allows staff at all levels to learn about sustainability and climate change and how their actions can make a difference. They work through a series of scenarios and do a test at the end to get the Pass.”

Climate Ready will also deliver the skills needed for individuals to take up the new roles that will be created in the green economy. “We have programmes to upskill people who are moving on or want to re-enter the workforce with new skill. For example, the Green Tech Skillnet has a wind turbine technician programme and a near-zero energy building programme. These programmes offer training for people who want to transition from areas where jobs might disappear in future.”