Wishes (and challenges) for 2012

A very happy and prosperous new year to all involved with the East London Green Jobs Alliance. This is our first blog on this website and what we would like to do is reflect on the first year of the Alliance and express some wishes (and challenges) for its future success in 2012.

The first thing to say is that the East London Green Jobs Alliance was the first partnership in the UK to emerge from the work of the Institute for Public Policy Research to promote the Californian (Apollo) model for locally driven green economy development, which included an exchange visit to San Francisco and Oakland in March 2011 inclusive of some of the Alliance’s partners. It’s often difficult being the first. In the Alliance’s case, there were initially few financial resources and few other domestic precedents to follow. As the trailblazer, this alliance has had all kinds of obstacles, had to learn how to work together and how to learn from mistakes. But the alliance is emerging as a strong model with high levels of commitment from its partners, excellent connections with a growing number of green pioneers and a few excellent innovations of our own; particularly the engagement of young people through social media, events, work placements and volunteering.

Thanks should particularly go to the Otesha Project for their tenacity in pursuing the objectives of the Alliance and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation for their role in the financing of the co-ordination of the Alliance. With regards to the trade unions, we are grateful to UCATT (the Union Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians), UNITE (TUC’s largest affiliate) and UCU (Union for Colleges and Universities) for their support for the alliance in 2011 and hope that this will continue in 2012. But we also need to involve other trade unions who can contribute to this alliance in 2012.

In 2012, the Alliance needs to prove in East London that partnership working adds value, that it can engage employers, unions, colleges, local authorities and voluntary sector organisations alike and contribute to a sustained drive towards a local green economy. All the alliance partners have their insights as how to engage in these sectors and will need to contribute them in the year ahead. From unionlearn’s point of view, it’s important to draw on its experience of engaging colleges and employers to develop skills programmes that will support the development of the green economy, particularly around ‘environmental literacy’ and apprenticeship support programmes. If our experience is anything to go by, employers will continue to engage where the alliance demonstrates it can support their growth through its labour market intelligence and skills and training solution networks.

The Alliance will therefore need to continue to both widen and deepen its knowledge of how green skills partnerships can work, taking advantage of the networks that we collectively hold. Unionlearn for one has been involved in developing green skills partnerships in South London and the Midlands that have benefitted from knowledge of the Alliance’s trailblazing efforts in East London and it is now possible to start transmitting those learnings back to East London. But unionlearn is also involved in other partnerships to promote the green economy from which the Alliance could learn and grow, which leads us to our penultimate challenge to the Alliance for 2012.

On 5th to 8th October 2011, the Excel Centre hosted the World Skills Competition which saw young people from all over the world travel to compete in a very extensive range of vocations including hairdressing, carpentry and engineering (see http://www.worldskills.org/). Unionlearn partnered with its affiliate Prospect to deliver an exhibition event that attracted a few college teams (16 to 18 year olds) from England and Holland to compete in an ‘environmental science’ competition that challenged them to address the challenge of meeting the energy needs of a small island via use of renewable energy whilst recognising all the associated political, social and economic concerns. This competition is running as a  competition in UK Skills 2012 and World Skills 2013 in Leipzig, Germany. Our challenge to the Alliance is to engage local colleges who are teaching environmental science and their students and encourage their participation in entering these competitions. This seems to us to be an excellent way of encouraging young people to engage with the global green economy challenge to compliment the work that is going on behalf of the alliance to contribute to the Rio +20 summit in June 2012.

A final challenge for alliance partners is to write their own wish list (or set of challenges) on this site, so we can all help to drive each other forward in 2012!

Richard Blakeley and Stuart Barber: Unionlearn

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