Damien Amichaud of the Shift Project is joining the EPALE team of experts to work on training and ecological transition!
[Translation : EPALE France]
The Shift Project. He leads “ClimatSup INSA”, which aims to integrate energy and climate issues in engineering courses. He has recently joined the team of experts at EPALE France. Although his work is focused on higher education, Damien will be able to shed light on the common issues of “training and ecological transition” regardless of the level of study. Read his interview with the EPALE team below.
You have a background that you define as “hybrid”. Can you tell us about it?
Damien Amichaud: I have worked towards building bridges between different worlds that do not communicate enough. I am a graduate of an engineering school, IMT Lille Europe, with a degree in philosophy and a Master's degree in ethics, ecology and sustainable development from Jean Moulin Lyon 3 University - in both social and human science and hard science. Professionally speaking, my background is also mixed. I worked in the automotive industry in R&D, then for the Volvo Group in the transport of goods and people (buses, trucks, boats) - I was a project manager improving the durability and quality of products. A few years ago, I decided to dedicate myself to ecological transition, focusing on skills and training.
You joined the Shift Project. Can you remind us what this is all about?
Damien Amichaud: The Shift Project is a think tank that takes the form of a public interest association. It has been campaigning for 12 years to decarbonise the economy because of the double carbon constraint. On the one hand, it is necessary to drastically reduce - by 55% by 2030 according to European standards - greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from the combustion of fossil fuels, in order to limit the harmful impacts of global warming. On the other hand, the simple fact that we live on a planet with limited resources means that we have to be careful and therefore reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, which are in short supply.
The Shift Project's activities consist of enlightening the public debate around decarbonisation, through the publication of reports based on science and the stakeholders concerned, and more generally to stimulate the debate in various ways: conferences, webinars, legislative proposals, books, etc. We are also working in higher education, particularly through partnerships with the Insa Group's engineering schools and with business and finance schools. We offer a number of practical tools to accelerate these dynamics, such as the teaching platform enseignerleclimat.org, which allows teachers to share their lessons. We also offer a series of awareness-raising conferences for teachers on the various major climate-related themes.
What is your role in the Shift Project?
Damien Amichaud: I am leading a pilot project to integrate ecological issues into the initial training of engineers, with the Insa Group: 13 engineering schools are participating in the study, representing 10% of engineering graduates each year in France. The idea is to transform the courses at the heart of the activity of these institutions. This action has a significant potential to transform society.
The Insa Group wanted to get involved in 2019, following the student climate protests, the manifesto for an ecological awakening and a major survey conducted by the Shift Project on a sample of higher education institutions. This survey showed that environmental issues - energy and climate in particular - were only very rarely included in training courses.
The group led by climate scientist Jean Jouzel has just published its report on the inclusion of climate issues in education. Is this going in the right direction for you?
Damien Amichaud: This is what happened in 2019 that led to the creation of the group headed by Jean Jouzel, in which we participated until the conclusions were delivered this year. The report concludes that it is necessary to train all second-year students in climate issues.
Transforming higher education is essential. But by the time a school decides to make this change, teachers change their teaching, and the time students leave, enter the labour market and start to change practices, 5 to 10 years may have gone by. We therefore have to integrate socio-ecological issues into lifelong learning and professional education. This is why I am interested in Epale. All the conclusions we drew in our project for the Insa Group can be adapted to other types of training and to other countries. There is no need for every country, every institution to start from scratch: if we share what the pioneers have to say, everyone can move forward.
Is there a particular way of teaching environmental issues?
Damien Amichaud: I think it is important to start by introducing a general vision of the issues surrounding ecology: you can feel lost or overwhelmed by the diverse range of topics, and not know where to start when teaching these subjects. For example, climate change covers physico-chemical aspects, but also requires making a connection with human activities and understanding the implications for our lives. It also raises the question of what role technology could or should play, such as how much we can rely on carbon capture. It is also about understanding the importance of climate justice. Climate change is a major aspect of the environmental transition that covers many dimensions.
Leading a socio-ecological transition requires skills, regardless of the field! Firstly, to understand what the issues are in order to make the link with your own activity. Secondly, having the right operational skills for the job allows you to act in the best possible way. You therefore have to a good balance between cross-cutting skills and knowledge and trade and sector specific skills.
Join Damien Amichaud at the next EPALE webcast on 30 June from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm on “Jobs of the ecological transition: opportunities for ALL citizens?” (Event website under construction / Event in French).