By Desha, Cheryl; Hargroves, Charlie
Ecos , No. 159
The Australian government's second national action plan for education for sustainability, (1) published in 2009, outlines ambitious strategies and actions for creating a sustainable future. Elsewhere, federal government departments have been working intensively on building capacity in energy efficiency knowledge and skills to deliver the national energy policy framework. (2,3)
In fact, the vocational education and training (VET) sector is already demonstrating leadership in curriculum renewal. Compared with universities, the VET sector's curriculum is heavily regulated. This turns out to be a major advantage for rapid curriculum renewal, as policy can quickly translate to action in the classroom.
A number of national and state policies and programs around the country are driving the VET sector's momentum. These include the Australian government's 2009 Clean Sustainable Skills Package, (4) a $94 million investment in green jobs and training opportunities; and the 2009 Skills for the Carbon Challenge (5) initiative, which provides national leadership for industry to develop and prosper in a sustainable, low-carbon economy.
The 2009 Green Skills Agreement (6) commits all state and territory governments to working with trainers and businesses to ensure that relevant skills for sustainability are part of all VET curricula. In 2009, the Ministerial Council for Vocational and Technical Education endorsed a National VET Sector Sustainability Action Plan (7), which provides a national framework to support curriculum renewal within the context of these national agreements.
With such comprehensive regulatory support for education for sustainability, how is the VET sector responding to the challenge? By far the most progress has been around the topic of energy efficiency. With support from the National Framework for Energy Efficiency (NFEE)'s National Strategy on Energy Efficiency (8) and state energy efficiency industry groups, training materials are already being developed through collaborations between universities, state and federal agencies.
According to Ms Val MacGregor, from NFEE's Training and Accreditation committee, what has been missing is practical guidance on how the required knowledge and skills can be developed.
'At NFEE, we have been bridging this gap,' says Ms MacGregor. 'Last year, we commissioned research into the functional skills needed to undertake rigorous energy efficiency assessments, which have subsequently informed a summary list (9) for VET training providers. Curriculum developers and trainers can use this immediately, which reduces their cost of developing materials and also creates a common language for training across the country.'
The importance of collaboration is also evident in early examples of energy efficiency training in Victoria, NSW and Queensland. In Victoria, Swinburne University--through the Centre for Sustainable Futures (CSF)--has been developing energy efficiency training with support from the NFEE and Sustainability Victoria. This includes a Graduate Certificate in Energy Efficiency for facility managers, and a Certificate IV in Sustainable Energy and Resource Efficiency Technologies (10). CSF is also developing a Graduate Certificate in Building Energy Analysis (non-residential) for professionals in partnership with RMIT, the Clean Energy Council Centre for Design, the NFEE and Sustainability Victoria.
In NSW, the Australian Research Institute on Education for Sustainability at Macquarie University is developing a teaching unit on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, (11) for inserting at the diploma or graduate diploma level in higher education or vocational education and training. This resource has been funded by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, as part of its Skills for the Carbon Challenge initiative, and will be trialled within state VET institutes teaching energy efficiency. …