Photo: UTVCO students practicing with solar cells (Source: UTVCO).
The theme of Earth Day 2023 is "Invest in Our Planet,” and at IYF, an important part of how we seek to address the climate crisis is through investment in youth skills development—especially green skills that allow people to develop and support an environmentally sustainable society.
Not surprisingly, the demand for green skills is experiencing an unprecedented boom. In the last five years, job offers related to renewable energy and environmental resources have increased by 237 percent, a fact that is not necessarily surprising given that renewable energy is projected to be the primary source of energy by 2050.
In Mexico, the country’s geography offers many opportunities and advantages for generating clean energy: 90 percent of the territory is on the latitude with the highest solar radiation, making it ideal for solar photovoltaic infrastructure. Additionally, in the Gulf of Mexico and the Oaxacan Isthmus, there is an extraordinary capacity to generate wind energy. That being said, it remains a challenge for Mexico to bridge the gap between its installed capacity for renewable energy generation, its transmission infrastructure, and end users.
However, investment and geographic advantages will not be enough without a prepared, creative, and willing workforce to face the energy and sustainability challenges of the country.
Mexico’s state governments and private sector have been pushing the energy transition forward: by the end of 2022, eight states had passed a tax on carbon emissions, and in March 2023 it was announced that the world’s largest Tesla plant would be built in Nuevo León. While Tesla’s investment has been in the media spotlight for weeks, this is only the start of the booming interest of private investors in the green manufacturing industry across sectors. However, investment and geographic advantages will not be enough without a prepared, creative, and willing workforce to face the energy and sustainability challenges of the country. At IYF, we believe a green-skilled workforce across sectors is part of the answer.
IYF’s Green Skills program contributed to Mexico’s transition to a low-carbon economy, developed the supply of skills linked to the energy transition, and increased the employability of graduates in that market.
That’s why IYF, in collaboration with DAI, implemented a Green Skills component as part of our Skills for Prosperity program. During an eleven-month period from 2022 to 2023, IYF’s Green Skills program contributed to Mexico’s transition to a low-carbon economy, developed the supply of skills linked to the energy transition, and increased the employability of graduates in that market.
From June 2022 to March 2023, six specialized courses focused on the energy transition were designed and adapted in areas such as energy efficiency, solar thermal and photovoltaic energy, technical English for the energy sector, circular economy, and electromobility. Through strategic alliances with 11 higher and secondary education institutions in five states of the country, we trained 94 teachers.
The boom in green skills in the labor market, however, is not limited to "green" careers, but is expanding much faster into areas that traditionally we do not think of as related to the environment or planet care.
The focus of IYF’s Green Skills program stands out from other teacher training programs for the practical, "hands-on" method of the courses. Five out of six courses were delivered in person at the Center for Training in High Technology (CENALTEC) in Chihuahua, where teachers had the opportunity to see, touch, experiment, and even play with renewable energy technology including solar panels, electric vehicles, and batteries. The program also provides teachers with manuals and other resources that they can use in their own classrooms to teach, inspire, and support their own students who are on the path to professions that will change the energy paradigm in Mexico.
The boom in green skills in the labor market, however, is not limited to "green" careers in fields like ecology, renewable energy, natural resource management, or environmental science. In fact, green skills are expanding much faster into areas that traditionally aren’t thought of as related to the environment or planet care—areas such as manufacturing, industrial processes, mechatronics, automotive, corporate services, and data analysis. That’s why IYF sought to train teachers who are preparing students for a wide range of careers including sustainable agriculture, mechatronics, industrial maintenance, biotechnology, textile engineering, and electromechanics.
Of course, the courses developed for the Green Skills program arose from exhaustive research into labor market trends, but also from cooperation with the British Embassy in Mexico and other academic institutions and training centers. We still have a long way to go to meet the demand for professionals with relevant skills to face climate change in Mexico. This is especially true in the renewable energy sector because, in Mexico, unlike other countries in Latin America, we only have the installed capacity to produce 31 percent of our electricity from renewable sources, and only 10 percent of the final energy we consume comes from clean energy sources.
Although Green Skills was a relatively short program, we are convinced of the lasting effect it had on teachers and the students with whom they are now sharing the green skills they developed. The transformation of the energy industry towards a more environmentally friendly sector that can address the climate challenge is also a matter of investment in human capital.
With Green Skills, we have laid a foundation for young Mexicans from five states in the country to see green skills as an asset that allows them to obtain better jobs and contribute to the sustainable development of the country.
Investment in green skills ensures that young people not only successfully integrate into a competitive and changing labor market but also have the skills to mitigate climate change and thus create more prosperous, equitable, and sustainable communities.
Gabriela Barrera is Green Generation MX's Program Coordinator in IYF's Mexico Office