There are many initiatives pioneered by government as well as the private sector that are attempting to boost green skills in South Africa. Photo supplied.
There are many initiatives pioneered by government as well as the private sector that are attempting to boost green skills in South Africa. Photo supplied.

Building a green economy starts with nurturing the right talent

By Time of article published Aug 7, 2021

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By Janavi Da Silva

A flourishing green economy has positive implications for South Africa, boosting employment opportunities and driving innovative business solutions toward a low-carbon economy.

To achieve this and ensure a sustainable future for South Africa’s environmental sector, attracting more talent to careers focused on greening South Africa, as well as empowering people across other sectors to become advocates for the green economy in their own right, needs to become a major priority.

In the biodiversity arena in particular, senior scientists and field experts remain the gatekeepers of knowledge, and the challenge that faces us now is to ensure that they pass the torch on to young, budding biodiversity conservationists, environmental scientists, and water professionals, who will become the future custodians of South Africa’s natural heritage.

However, we are dealing with a skills deficit in the environmental sector that needs to be addressed first. According to the 2020 Critical Skills List, skilled professionals are needed in South Africa’s natural and social science industries for positions such as chemical scientists, laboratory scientists, biological scientists, biochemists and physical scientists.

There are many initiatives pioneered by government as well as the private sector that are attempting to boost green skills in South Africa in order to grow and nurture a high-quality environmentally focused talent pool. The GreenMatter Fellowship exists within this realm and takes a holistic approach to providing young people with essential skills for the workplace while enabling them to become leaders within the green economy. The purpose of the GreenMatter Fellowship is not merely to advance technical skills within South African biodiversity, but to unlock the leadership potential of individuals across a multitude of sectors. In this way, we hope to bring South Africa’s various trades and industries together for the benefit of the green economy, in the process creating pathways that encourage greener business processes and greener skills.

From experience, we know that when it comes to nurturing talent in the green economy, it’s important to work with the “whole person” – that means equipping them with skills they need to enter the workforce with confidence, clarity and focus and ensure a sustainable career in the future. Over and above conservation and climate change, talent pools should be equipped with leadership skills, including training in emotional intelligence. However, they should also know the basics – attire choice and even business etiquette being part of this.

Paving the way for the greening of our economy requires that we invest in nurturing a top-notch pool of talent, made of a wide range of skilled professionals from across sectors. Doing so will yield future generations of environmental innovators who will not only be responsible for preserving South Africa’s natural heritage, but also help to unlock the environmental, social, and economic potential of our country.

Janavi Da Silva is the director of programmes at GreenMatter.

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE

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