Educating work forces for a greener future
On Earth Day (22 April 2021), Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organisation, stressed that climate education is central to making a transition to greener economies that guarantee a "sustainable future for current and new generations." Ryder also pointed out that the transition to a carbon-neutral economy will require new skills, training, and qualifications: "Many new jobs will emerge. Others will have to adapt. This makes climate education for the current and future workforce a priority."
It's essential that individuals and businesses take steps to improve climate education – and pressing. Not least because it's the ethical thing to do, but also because becoming more environmentally friendly is often deeply entrenched in companies' values and business strategy. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) targets, for instance, are public for all to see – including stakeholders – and often underwritten by law. For example, the UK's Climate Change Act 2008 and the European Climate Law made the bloc's goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2050 irreversible and legally binding.
The fact is, we all need to do our bit to ensure a greener future and amplify the conversation on sustainable development. But not everyone has necessarily been given the right tools and support to help deal with these global challenges. That's why training that helps shape competent, confident environmental sustainability professionals is so necessary. Completing courses certified by highly reputable organisations (like IEMA and NEBOSH) demonstrates a commitment to developing crucial skills that will help make the world of business more sustainable.
But how, as a training provider, do we pique and maintain interest and stimulate people to, firstly, want to learn, and secondly, learn better? Let's take a look.
Strike the right balance
Workers need to feel motivated to learn new skills, and those who can be most vulnerable to labour market changes are not always receptive or willing to reskill. So uncovering what drives motivation to learn – and designing courses accordingly – is crucial.
Many factors, of course, drive people to learn. On the one hand, learners are motivated by external rewards, such as improved job opportunities or approval from a manager. On the other, learning also needs to be personally rewarding to feel worthwhile. This is why, regardless of external rewards like accreditation or incentives, it must strike the right balance of being enjoyable, challenging and exciting.
Central to achieving this is keeping course material relevant. According to adult learning theorist Jack Mezirow, a "defining condition of being human is that we have to understand the meaning of our experience." From a neurological perspective, that means that when the brain receives new information, it searches existing neural networks for a place for the data to "fit." If there's a connection, the latest information makes sense.
It's why training providers should work with businesses to tailor course material for their own unique needs. Courses that are customised for individual companies, the sector(s) they operate in, and the specific challenges workers face daily will help ensure students can relate to the importance – and relevance – of what they're learning. This will likely improve learner motivation, which can subsequently contribute to better results.
Keep it engaging
The best courses are the ones that keep learners engaged. It's why, as far as possible, an "active learning" approach should be adopted. This will ensure students remain cognitively active – something that helps learners form connections between existing knowledge and new experiences and reflect on how their understanding has changed.
For several reasons, adopting elements of gamification can help with this. Gamification in learning involves using game-based features such as point scoring, peer competition, teamwork, and score tables to drive engagement. All of which can help students assimilate new information and test their knowledge. It works for several reasons:
- It's familiar mainly. We live in an increasingly virtual world. Technology permeates many of our day-to-day lives, and most people either play or have previously played video games of some description.
- It can be fun, and learners learn best when they are also having fun.
- Players/learners have an element of control – to a certain extent, they are in charge of their learning journey.
- It can trigger powerful human emotion, such as happiness, intrigue, excitement and accomplishment
Gamification also lends itself to our previous point: customisation. Training providers can implement simulation training using real-life workplace examples and gamification elements by working closely with businesses. This provides a greater sense of authenticity, helping to bring courses to life for learners.
The time is now to invest in climate education
I've walked you through just some of the principles that guide us (Astutis) when we design and deliver environmental training courses. Arguably, they're all as important as each other – but what's most important is that businesses and individuals do take steps to upskill their workforce/themselves when it comes to climate education. It's never been more important or pressing – so choose a provider you can rely on. One whose courses will always remain relevant and keep learners engaged by being entertaining as well as educational.
By Brenig Moore, founding member and technical director at Astutis, an industry-leading provider of health, safety and environmental training and consultancy.
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