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EU financial instruments and funds to support cohesion policies and to enable just transition in EU regions

eu financial instruments and funds to support cohesion policies and to enable just transition in eu regions (1)

What’s the Good Practice about? 

The good practice involves leveraging EU financial instruments to promote and support green employment for engineering and technical employees within the Hydrogen Value Chain. In that direction, an innovative new Hydrogen Skills Strategy aims to facilitate the upskilling and reskilling of students and the technical local workforce and reorient the local workforce to greener practices and professions. That will be done by addressing the ever-increasing Green Skills gap and by ensuring that the European Renewable Energy sector can meet the challenging targets of the Green Transition. In that direction, the strategy as a tool and as a good practice can help the Regions of Western Macedonia decarbonization effort while simultaneously mitigating the consequences of transitioning away, including mitigating the risks of poverty, unemployment, and social exclusion, from lignite-based industries.

The practice promotes the collaboration between education and industry. This collaboration helps to identify the needs and concerns of different industry stakeholders, and to develop solutions that are tailored to their specific circumstances. Education and training are essential components of the green transition and employment in the hydrogen sector. In Western Macedonia, education and training programs are being developed to provide workers with the necessary skills for jobs in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other low-carbon industries.

Why implementing the Good Practice? What are the special features of the Good Practice?

The introduction of hydrogen as a new, renewable energy will increase further business opportunities in the area. The further education of the target groups of Western Macedonia via reskilling and upskilling will ensure that no one will be left behind.  This is done by modernizing VET, introducing alternative economic models (i.e. circular economy) in regions that the transition phase is directly related to, a rapid lignite phase-out schedule and creating several environmental and socio-economic challenges, which are coupled with the area’s limited innovation capabilities.

The overall aim of this practice is to contribute to the formulation of an effective and sustainable Hydrogen Skills Strategy through the design and implementation of VET Training Programs for Europe that will ensure the skills needs of the rapidly expanding and evolving Renewable Hydrogen sector can be met in the short, medium, and long term. This practice supports the region’s decarbonisation and just transition process and mitigates the potential risks of poverty, unemployment, and social exclusion.

The specific objective of this practice is to maintain and develop sustained engagement between training providers and labour market stakeholders across the whole Hydrogen Value Chain, ensuring the progressive roll-out of the VET training programs across Europe and creating feedback loops to iterate and improve the strategy as needed. Ultimately, this practice can assist, through the wise use of EU funds, in the modernisation of VET and the reorientation of the local human capital towards more sustainable activities.

What are the challenges in implementing the Good Practice? What’s the key to success?

As the region has been heavily reliant on lignite-based activities for decades, transitioning away from this and towards more sustainable activities is quite challenging and requires a comprehensive approach. The strategy focuses on developing the region’s human capital by providing skills, training and expertise (i.e. green skills, bioenergy, the broader bioeconomy etc.), so as to ensure that the region’s local society and economy will efficiently go through the transition process, i.e. moving away from fossil fuels into greener, more sustainable economic activities.

Results cannot be delivered if the funding is not used effectively so that this reskilling of the local workforce and reorientating of the local economy is not successful. This can happen if there is a lack of knowledge, skills, and expertise to implement the project. There is also the risk of social resistance, because the Good Practice is a threat to lignite-based economy and associated jobs.

The key to success is the effective use of EU financial funds and adherence to the timeline and budget. The positive impact on the regional hydrogen economy should be demonstrated and synergies between hydrogen-related projects and similar practices and initiatives should be promoted. Public awareness is needed to increase the local enthusiasm and support, stimulate self-mobilisation and action. It is important to develop a level of ownership to the local society, in the sense of upskilling and reskilling are directly related to their future. Awareness is more important than persuasion.

The development of new modules and curricula will be cornerstones to upskill and reskill the workforce already involved in the hydrogen ecosystem, and to train young people to work in this increasingly expanding sector. For the proposed trainings to be successful, trained and skilled trainers are needed.

 

Example projects

The Hydrogen Summer ScH2ool took place in July 2023 at the University of Western Macedonia. The Hydrogen Summer ScH2ool training delivered by CluBE, Advent Technologies and UoWM, with the support of the Region of Western Macedonia provided participants with the opportunity to learn more about hydrogen technologies.

Through the summer school, over than 75 participants from Greek institutions had the opportunity to expand their knowledge and develop their skills while learning from experts in the rapidly developing sector of hydrogen. A total of 35 speakers from Greece and other European countries participated in the Hydrogen Summer ScH2ool, contributing to the upskilling and reskilling of the attendees.

During the training program, a workshop on creating a hydrogen start-up company took place, coordinated by B-Hydrogen, as well as a round table regarding the creation of a Hydrogen Valley in Western Macedonia. In addition, two study visits were held, at the Laboratory of Alternative fuels and Environmental Catalysis (LAFEC) at the University of Western Macedonia in Kozani and at the Centre of Research and Technologies (CERTH)/Chemical Process & Energy Resources Institute (CPERI) in Thessaloniki.

The program is targeted at undergraduate and postgraduate engineering students, PhD candidates and engineers.

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The Masterclass “One-Day Hydrogen” was held in February 2023. The Masterclass, delivered by CluBE, Advent and the University of Western Macedonia, with the support by the Region of Western Macedonia, covers the entire hydrogen value chain and the role of hydrogen in the energy transition of the region of Western Macedonia, with the ultimate aim to achieve a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.

Through this training participants can discover the safety context as we pave the way for the future implementation of hydrogen as a critical player in the global energy transition, the latest technological developments, the different business models for H2 (industry, transportation sector, power sector) and the Pan-European Hydrogen Industry Hub of Western Macedonia.

The target audience were professionals within and outside the energy sector, wanting to gain more knowledge about the hydrogen value chain, including stakeholders, policymakers, innovation, research, and development advisors, energy producers and engineers. The program included an overview of possibilities of hydrogen, latest developments, technological challenges (e.g., storage and transport), the current situation of the energy transition and the role of H2 in Western Macedonia.

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