Cities in transition: how vocational education and training can help cities become smarter and greener (CEDEFOP 2022)
Cities are key players in mitigating climate change and shaping the green transition via services and through regulatory competence. Using the smart and green city concept in existing and new urban settings contributes to achieving European Green Deal ambitions.
This policy brief reports on a Cedefop skills foresight study which looked at the occupations and skills that help cities become smarter and greener and the role vocational education and training can play in developing them.
When asked to reflect on what drives the shift towards smart and green cities (SGC), experts underlined the complex interplay of technological, societal, and environmental trends and challenges; this demands a cultural shift among citizens and in local administrations and institutions towards more collaboration and partnerships. It is additional to municipal staff having knowledge of green technologies and understanding of innovative green solutions, sustained through regular upskilling, which are prerequisites for cities to procure, develop and deliver services (e.g. water, waste management) in a greener way. City ‘smartness’ is supported by digitalisation, which allows cities to make decisions based on big data collection and analysis, also driving green innovation. To benefit fully from such technologies, city administrations need to commit to using them in the context of greening and to empower their staff via adequate digital skills training.
The complex nature of SGCs will increase the demand for other knowledge-intensive occupations, particularly those linked to the use of smart and green technologies. Infrastructure and software tools can be used in almost every area of a municipality’s administration, including energy supply, mobility/transport, waste and e-services to citizens. Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain, big data analytics, and online platforms have the potential to disrupt the way in which municipal services are delivered, while the emergence of digital twin cities is likely to transform city governance and planning.
Demand for ‘twin transition skills’ will soar as more specialist knowledge is needed to customise and apply green technology, and more fundamental understanding of environmental and sustainability issues is required compared to the past, e.g. for ICT professionals. New job roles identified in existing smart city research include:
- smart city planner
- smart city IT manager and smart city IT officer
- artificial intelligence and machine learning scientists
- data scientists
- cybersecurity analysts
- app and software developers
- network support engineers and civil engineers
- digital marketers
- geospatial and mapping scientists and cloud architects,
- energy efficiency engineers, or integration engineers.
While many of such roles involve applying advanced IT technology, this is not the case for all jobs needed to support green activities in an SGC. Examples of less IT-driven SGC jobs include tree maintenance professional, urban farmer and solar panel installer.