Australia’s Green Labour Force: The Next Generation

EnviroWeek

Just over a week ago, Australia celebrated EnviroWeek 2014, a fantastic community initiative that works with Australian schools to promote sustainable practices. The project was run by Cool Australia, and its CEO Jason Kimberley has a built a real future-focused movement for sustainability education in schools. Since starting the organisation in 2008, Jason and his team have engaged more than 15,000 teachers and 500,000 students across Australia, with  172,732 students from 2137 schools this year taking part in 314,495 local and community projects to promote sustainability and help the environment.

As discussed in previous posts, education is the linchpin that can create lasting returns to sustainable development. Jeffrey Sachs is a big supporter of education as a way to reduce poverty; education programs could have just as monumental an impact on our home turf as it does abroad. According to Kimberley “90 per cent of teachers in the country want to adopt and teach sustainability practices, but more than 85 per cent are unsure about how to do it”. This is where broader sustainability-themed programs can assist.

Cool Australia is a great example of how sustainability can engage children across their curriculum. But is this non-essential programming taking time away from the necessary skills needed to enter adult life and contribute to society? The good news is that Cool Australia’s projects and free materials are integrated across Maths, English and Sciences, allowing for a more holistic approach to education. The importance of this approach should not be lost on the community because it is preparing the next generation to intuitively work towards environmentally sustainable outcomes in their daily lives. Not only will it create a focus on building sustainable communities and professions, but it will allow for a greater proclivity of self directed sustainable innovation across secondary and tertiary education. With new generations entering the workforce over the next 10 – 20 years, there can only be positive gains to society, in having a labour force with a deep understanding of how to create a sustainable future.

Cool Australia and EnviroWeek is supported by Bendigo Bank, as part of their CSR initiative and community outreach programs. It is fantastic to see corporate support of these sorts of programs, but what will make all the difference, is support at a state and federal government level, and integrating similar programs (or elements of) into the broader national curriculum. In Tanzania, Africa, the NGO Hope For Children is working with the government to build labs in 100 secondary schools, and creating programs to train scientists and sustainable professionals for the future. Hope For Children’s Founder Princes Michelle Marsland spoke about the program in an interview this week, saying that “science is a major pillar of world response of today’s and tomorrow’s challenges, [and is] the reason we include climate change, poverty eradication and sustainability [in our] projects”.

Sustainability should be taught, and it needs to be taught, so that our future leaders have an appropriate grasp of environmental and development issues that affect us today and into the future.