Youth unemployment, especially in southern European countries, remains unbearably high. At the same time, just there the opportunities for a climate-friendly transformation of energy systems are very promising. The conditions there are excellent for the use of sun and often ideal for the use of wind. There is considerable scope for efficient and economical energy use, too. And energy change is urgent just in the Mediterranean regions, being highly endangered by the global climate crisis. It therefore makes high sense to train young people for climate protection tasks which will be asked for urgently in the near future. They can be offered a promising professional future instead of being marginalized from work.
At the beginning of 2018, a team from three countries made research in the Spanish province of Cádiz and in Athens to get knowledge on:
- opportunities and prospects for a climate-friendly energy change in the coming years and the additional demand for qualified work resulting from it,
- how this is esteemed and evaluated by stakeholders, local politicians and affected young people themselves and whether local communities are willing to participate in appropriate initiatives,
- how such professional formation should be designed in order to increase the prospects of subsequent employment.
The project was financed by the EU Climate Initiative (EUKI) of the German Federal Ministry for Environment.
The most important results of the research are:
- Activities to energy change and climate protection offer considerable employment potential. We expect a six-figure number of new jobs in Spain and almost a six-figure number in Greece for energy-efficient building refurbishment alone. In the various renewable energy tasks, we estimate the number of new jobs in both countries to be in the five-digit range. In the municipalities surveyed, the energy balance of the buildings is generally so unfavourable that the applicable national and European regulations virtually force refurbishments, being economically viable, too.
- Due to favourable climatic conditions, the prosuming (production and consumption) of solar electricity required by households, businesses and public institutions itself in the regions studied is also very attractive from an economic point of view. In Greece, the legal framework is favourable; in Spain, fundamental improvements can be expected in the near future. Even for households and businesses with low income, solar power generation seems economically viable, provided that there are favourable microcredits, state subsidies and offers for a so-called “energy contracting”.
- At present, young people in the regions who are trained in energy management have clear difficulties to find work in their profession. Their chances do improve significantly if vocational training is closely linked to practical learning in companies or communal activities. But close attention must be payed to ensure against misuse of the apprenticeship by undertakers.
Some proposals based on the research:
- We plead for municipal action plans at both local and regional level. Action days in the towns should be organized, to present possible or existing projects and to inform about national and regional energy plans to citizens and local businesses as well and the possibilities for financing activities related to energy and climate protection. For energy rehabilitation projects it should be recommended to form cooperatives or neighbourhood associations.
- Programmes are proposed in which a targeted “dual” qualification of young unemployed people is combined with the task to develop energetic refurbishments in municipal buildings. The energy-saving regulations of the building should include natural techniques and the use of renewable energy sources on site. In autumn 2018, a “test project” started in small towns near Cádiz and in Athens for schools, which in these regions are notoriously overheated in summer and overchilled in winter.
- In the coming years, a large number of experts will be in demand for the use of solar energy for auto-consumption. For this reason, programmes for “round-up” training of young people should now be started, including planning, installation, monitoring, economic efficiency calculations for solar systems plus energy-saving measures.
- Young people without jobs and training have the greatest difficulties in finding a job in the regions studied. In particular for youngsters living in rural areas we plead for formation in climate protective activities which are increasingly necessary in the landscape, in agriculture, forests and green urban environment.
- Last but not least: The existing “European Youth Guarantee” should be extended to finance training in occupations in which a high demand for skilled workers can be expected in the future. In the areas of energy change and climate protection this is undoubtedly the case.
Link to the detailed study “How to Reduce Youth Unemployment by Fighting Climate Change“
Dr. Hartwig Berger (Berlin)