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Making Things Last - A Circular Economy Strategy for Scotland

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12. Skills in a circular economy

12.1 Our ambition

We want to embed the development of new circular economy skills and thinking in the next generation of business leaders, designers and innovators. We want to make sure Scotland's workforce has the right skills to take advantage of opportunities from a more circular economy, to ensure our businesses can innovate and prosper, now and in the future.

12.2 Context

As we move towards a more circular economy, it is important to identify the skills that are needed to help realise business development opportunities. New, specific skills may be needed for different approaches to design, inspection and cleaning in remanufacturing and repair. Reskilling may also be important to allow people to move from one industry to another as opportunities develop.

There is also considerable scope to broaden skills and improve opportunities in the existing resource management sector, where Health and Safety related skills are a particular priority given the nature of the work.

Skills Investment Plans outline the key skills issues for each industry sector in Scotland. These plans will identify new skills needs, building on activity such as:

  • the Scottish Institute for Remanufacture, which links industry, academia and a network of similar hubs across the UK;
  • the development of Modern Apprenticeships in Sustainable Resource Management;
  • the energy efficiency skills programmes of the Sector Skills Council;
  • the Innovation Centres e.g. the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre and their support for PhD studentships;
  • Community Resources Network Scotland and its support for repair and refurbishment skills;
  • RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) engaging the design community in new thinking; and
  • Decom North Sea - examining skills needed to repurpose offshore equipment.

Education Scotland and Zero Waste Scotland supported the Ellen McArthur Foundation between 2013 and 2015 in increasing the engagement of schools in learning relating to the circular economy. The Scottish Government's youth employment strategy, Developing the Young Workforce[23], considers the particular skills demands of emerging industries, with an explicit commitment to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, all of which will support a more circular economy. In addition, Learning for Sustainability is now integral to teaching standards in Scotland and we are supporting its development across all schools.

12.3 Our priorities

Zero Waste Scotland and Skills Development Scotland will explore the scope for a skills academy for the circular economy, in conjunction with Sector Skills Councils, employers, Industry Leadership Groups, and skills partnerships.

This would co-ordinate work to develop the skills required for a more circular economy across sectors. Identified needs range from semi-skilled activities in resource management; skilled roles in remanufacturing; and highly skilled design and business studies related activities - helping build a flexible and adaptable workforce to respond to an emerging circular economy.

This work will include opportunities to review existing Skills Investment Plans (SIPs), to assess the specific skills needs for circular economy growth opportunities in any given sector.

We will build on existing work to encourage schools to embed circular economy principles within their curriculum and Zero Waste Scotland will work with Education Scotland to identify and support a cohort of teaching 'champions' for the circular economy. This grouping will provide opportunities for practitioners from different sectors and subject specialisms to work collaboratively to develop a range of learning resources for use in the classroom and online.

Skills make all the difference

Glasgow-based white goods re-use and repair social enterprise, Second Opportunities, recently received funding to help staff and volunteers develop their repair skills.

Research carried out by Zero Waste Scotland found a shortage of skills could be preventing re use organisations from growing their businesses. To combat this, a fund was launched for third sector groups to apply for funding to train staff in repair skills, if they could demonstrate how training staff and volunteers would increase their re-use activity.

Second Opportunities successfully applied for funding. Repair is a vital part of the business, which aims to reuse furniture which could otherwise end up in landfill. Furniture and white goods are repaired and cleaned to a high standard before being sold or made available for low income families through its referral network. This includes people who are homeless, unemployed, low income, victims of family break-up and those marginalised within society.

During the past year, Second Opportunities has re used or recycled 5,585 items an diverted 232 tonnes of useable goods from landfill.