Britain’s workforce may lack many of the skills needed to make London’s 2012 Olympics the most sustainable yet. This was the message at the European Parliament’s Green Group conference being held in London last week to mark the UK Presidency of the EU.

The Olympics brings with it the opportunity to accelerate the regeneration of East London creating six new sports venues, 9000 new homes and 5000 additional jobs but London’s Green MEP, Jean Lambert, who chaired the session at the conference warned that if we do not start training our workforce now Britain will not live up to its promises;

“London has the opportunity to not only build a sustainable Olympics but make London a sustainable city. The skills our workforce need to build the 2012 Olympics can be transferred to everyday life and continue to bring action to tackle climate change into the mainstream after the Olympics has finished.

“To be truly sustainable we need to ensure that any investment made in the Olympics is an investment in the future of London. Training is all too often aimed at placing people in jobs and ignores the significant potential that exists to empower people to improve the environment. If we can’t use the Yellow Pages to find a solar panel fitter then we haven’t brought action against climate change into the mainstream.”

Jim Lewis, Thames Gateway Skills Director – Learning and Skills Council who appeared on the panel alongside Jean, commented;

“This is the first Olympic bid that London has actually won which gives us a reasonable planning period and we must demonstrate that we can use it to deliver a sustainable Olympics. Spreading across the five Boroughs and beyond there are opportunities for the development of education and skills and local employment. Volunteering during the Olympics is on a huge scale and could be a major solution that, with a post volunteering programme, will equip those currently unemployed with essential skills for the future.”

The two day conference focused on climate change with sessions including Sustainability and Jobs, Transport and Urban Planning, and Energy / Nuclear Policy. Speakers included MEPs and other elected politicians from across the EU, journalists, trade unionists, academics and non-governmental organisations.