Businesses must empower and inspire young people to pursue green jobs

To mark edie's Business Leadership Month, Rhian Kelly, Director at National Grid and Member of the Green Jobs Taskforce reflects on National Careers Week and how businesses can empower the next generation of sustainability workers.

Businesses must empower and inspire young people to pursue green jobs

Earlier this month was National Careers Week (w/c 7 March) which shined a light on the vast range of career opportunities and routes into different professions, sectors and industries. For businesses, it’s a chance to promote training or career paths, from apprenticeships to graduate programmes, internships and summer placements, and look at how they can attract the best talent. Across sustainability-focused companies, it’s also a huge chance to reflect on their engagement with the current and next generation, and ensure they’re doing everything they can to raise awareness of climate-focused jobs and encourage young children all the way through to graduates to consider these roles.

For the UK energy sector alone, 400,000 green jobs need to be filled to reach net-zero according to National Grid research. More widely, government has called for 2 million green jobs by 2030, and there’s a risk that failing to plug the green skills gap could hinder the clean energy transition. We need the right people in the right roles to deliver on this agenda in the coming years and decades – and to achieve this, businesses must look at how they are inspiring and empowering today’s youth to join the workforce helping to tackle climate change.

Interactive workshops and competitions

Many organisations are involved in school visits or career fairs, giving talks and sharing insights on what it’s like to work at the company. But they can take this a step further to have an even bigger impact on increasing their interest in creating a greener future. This can include interactive workshops or competitions where students have to consider solutions to current or future challenges, such as the potential of hydrogen or the future of electric vehicles, work together on ideas to tackle the climate crisis, and have the opportunity to meet leading industry figures.

Site visits and education hubs

Businesses can also look at whether they can facilitate visits to projects that really demonstrate the exciting work going on to reach net zero. Seeing these sites in person will help bring green jobs to life, highlighting the range of careers these roles can lead to and the breadth of innovation in this space. In addition to arranging visits, project teams can also consider creating specific education hubs that enable young people to visualise the scale of work being done.

One example of how these can encourage greater excitement around the energy transition is the education centre at National Grid’s North Sea Link interconnector site in Blyth. By arranging local school visits, local children can learn about electricity interconnectors, how they work and the key role they play in the UK’s net zero ambitions.

Responsible Business commitments

Businesses are increasingly looking at how they can fulfil ambitions to be a responsible employer and making progress on their sustainability goals is a key part of this. Setting commitments and targets that hold the organisation to account should include actions that will educate young people on its purpose and spark an interest in the opportunities to join the teams delivering that purpose. This can involve offering STEM skills development programmes and support, targeting schools in deprived areas, and establishing recruitment targets that ensures a sustained approach to working with young people. Doing so will embed a responsibility within the organisation to interact with communities and schools, while also helping to create a potential pipeline of talent for the business.

Programmes and initiatives that reach those from disadvantaged backgrounds

The journey to net zero needs people from different backgrounds and experiences. Efforts to reach those from a low socioeconomic background have improved in recent years as businesses see the value of attracting the best people from all over the country. Setting up dedicated initiatives can ensure this is an ongoing process and that those from disadvantaged environments can access training and employment opportunities in different sectors. For example, at National Grid, over 3000 young people from these groups have come through our Grid for Good programme, with many receiving mentoring, CV advice, and some securing work experience and paid placements.

Businesses must take a proactive approach

Employers need to take proactive steps to get people thinking about jobs and careers that will accelerate climate and sustainability agendas. We know young people are critical to helping fill crucial green jobs, bringing fresh ideas and perspectives. The clock is ticking and if the UK is to build the workforce it needs to deliver a clean energy future, businesses must take action now.

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