Each of the five regions involved in SEED has executed a Regional Needs Analysis.
Despite the different maturity levels for vocational excellence in the different regions, several common needs have been identified for:
- excellence in VET
- reinforcing the skills eco-systems
- transitioning towards a fossil free energy society.
To establish a transition to sustainable energy, economic, social, and environmental tasks are addressed, resulting in five common needs:
- to increase the workforce for the energy sector
- to incorporate skills and knowledge needed for future challenges and develop learning environments at the boundary of school work and innovation
- to develop new clean energy systems
- to design products using less energy (or even producing energy)
- to develop and implement energy efficient production technologies, making use of less human capital (industrialisation).
The needs analysis of the five regions, offers us the connection and derive from regional issues and gaps to this transnational common needs.
In the Netherlands, the Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialization 3 (RIS3), focuses on the development of innovative ecosystems with the energy transition as a theme. Private-public partnerships are mentioned as the key to being successful. In the Regional Energy Strategy (RES) of the Province of Utrecht, the integration of renewable energy (solar panels and windmills) in a densely populated urban area is an issue. Opportunities are seen in energy conversion, renewable energy, and the involvement of citizens. Lack of personnel produces a delay in projects. The challenge is to utilize the local assets for developing a knowledge-based economy that can serve the transition towards a fossil free energy society. Therefore, vocational education can fulfil a crucial role by focusing on the learning processes taking place throughout a region (public and private partners, education, and citizens) and connecting these whenever possible.
In the Southwest of Finland, the capital Turku aims for carbon neutrality in 2029, with milestones: GHG emissions reduced by 50% in 2021 and 60 – 70% in 2025 (compared to 1990). The region is undergoing a strong acceleration of technology industry, requiring massive amounts of skilled labour. In the Regional Development Program one of the priorities is to be an innovative forerunner in resource wisdom, including energy resource efficiency and carbon neutrality. The diversity of energy sources is a strength of the current energy supply system. The aim is to keep this palette diverse, even after phasing out fossil energy. A focus area of the regional programme is ‘cooperation of education and business sectors’ which is seen as prerequisite for accommodating needs for change in education and ability, and for tackling regional challenges.
The Ruhr area, Germany, is a very dense industrial area, strongly affected by the coal phase-out. The electricity mix is much worse than the German average, due to the low solar radiation and low wind energy potential, high population density and dense industry. To become a less carbon intensive area, developments in alternative means of mobility, e-mobility, renewable energy in heath-nets, intelligent networking and digitalization are needed. According to the National Determined Contribution (NDC) GHG emissions must be reduced by 55% in 2030, however GHG emissions have dropped by only 27% (1990-2016). Car mobility is still the preferred mode of transport, so there is an urge to find in changing the modes of mobility and alternative transportation. The electricity sector has so far made an important contribution to reduce emissions, and now the heating and transport sectors must innovate.
In the Spanish Valencian Strategic Plan of the regional government, climate change is a priority. Regional electricity production by renewable resources is lower than the national average. Despite the high power in renewable electricity generation (hydraulic, wind) the weather conditions do not allow equal generation as other Spanish regions do. The production deficit is not compensated for by the higher level of solar radiation and higher production of photovoltaic and thermoelectric technologies. The development of electricity production from renewables (wind, photovoltaic solar, self-consumption) is conditioned by the regulatory policies of the national government. The regional objectives have a main objective to achieve in 2030 renewable energy sources with 25.39% participation over the gross energy consumption, 50% over the total electricity production and 68.1% on installed electrical power. Regional needs are to increase social and industry awareness and to develop and implement efficient energy solutions by SME’s.
The Greek West Macedonian urgency is to realize the transition from coal fuel to clean energy. The future energy mixture of Greece must be based mostly on Renewable Energy Sources. The RIS3 priority for the 2021-2027 Regional Operation Program, is education and the energy transition. An actual priority, since the decision of national government to terminate the operation of most lignite-fired plants and mines by 2023/2028, currently accounting for approximately 50% of country’s installed capacity for electricity production. The regional economy and employment depend on them. The regional unemployment rate is already the highest in the whole of the European Union (50% in age 24-34 year). The decarbonization process should be a transition to renewable energy and a catalyst for economic development. The regional electricity grid has the capacity to transfer vast amounts of electricity, so renewable energy plants and storage are an inviting prospect. Capacity building of the regional working force on renewable energy and storage or smart electricity grids is mostly needed.
The determined common needs make clear that innovations must be realized in the next domains:
1. Increase the workforce that can contribute to fossil free energy. The labor market needs many more engineering students, and students from other disciplines, e.g., via second career engineers, professional re-training, and further training (reskilling, upskilling and adaptation). For this purpose, we develop innovative approaches, and attractive good practices on fossil free energy-related challenges.
2. Upskilling and re-skilling vocational education: whole new energy systems are needed in Europe, based on renewables and clean energy. Not only one solution fitting in one system, but various solutions and combinations of solutions are urgent. Different energy systems must be developed in regional contexts, implemented, and tested. And innovative learning environments at the boundary of school, work and innovation are essential. The way we compare those systems and learn from each other via this international cooperation is an innovative aspect of this project.
3. In the transition process to fossil free energy, products are needed that use as little energy as possible, or even deliver energy by themselves (e.g., integrated solar cells, embedded systems). This requires huge research and innovation capacities from future students in VET.
4. With the development of regional skills ecosystems and the transnational exchange in a learning community, vocational education gets timely involved in the development of jobs that do not even exist yet, to satisfy the evolving market requirements and to future skills anticipation – important for VET planning and curricular innovation. (21st century skills)
5. Although all the technicians and engineers are well educated within our VETs, they will never be enough to handle all the work that is needed in this transition. For that reason, and to enhance sustainable competitiveness and to improve cost-efficiency it is important to develop innovative technologies that require less human effort and to promote entrepreneurship.
Taking into consideration:
the regional needs analysis, the SWOT, the innovation domains, and the discussions within the participants as well as every other available information, the specific objectives of SEED are:
Objective 1: To prepare learners, students and existing professionals with the necessary skills and competencies for the future
Objective 2: To empower regional innovation based on regional needs, by reinforcing the connections within the regions (VET and regional stakeholders)
Objective 3: To scale up and make good practices explicit, enriched with experience value to promote attractiveness of work-based education. This in relation to a coherent set of activities and measurement criteria on regional impact and skills
Objective 4: To establish an international learning community, with shared standards, approaches, tools (toolboxes, videos) experiences and lessons learned to effectuate knowledge exchange and mobility of staff and students, to achieve excellence in vocational education
Objective 5: To establish and extend five COVES, one in each region.
Collaboration and Coherence
The regional needs analysis led us to the common needs. Then, those needs were re-formulated in objectives. To reach those objectives we worked out viable solutions and next the work packages relevant to realize the objectives. And that is how the coherence of SEED can be shown.