‘More education needed’: British youth interest in green jobs ‘worryingly low’

Heat pump installation works. Image: MasterTherm

A report by the two organisations – Generation Green Jobs? – found only 27% of young people had heard the term “green jobs” and could explain what this meant. This finding was based on a survey of around 2,050 people in their teens and early 20s.

Even after the term ‘green jobs’ was explained, less than half (46%) of respondents were familiar with the kinds of jobs that would exist in the green economy.

Almost half (46%) of young people had not heard about green jobs during their education, and this was substantially higher for young people not in eduction, employment or training (NEET) (64%) and young women (61%).

Crucially, those taught about green jobs during their education were more interested in these roles.

Additionally, only 41% of NEET young people would be interested in training for green jobs, compared with 59% of young people overall.

Worryingly, interest was lowest for the roles most in need. When asked about their interest in specific roles, the most popular options were conservationist (22%) and farmer (19%), neither of which will see huge growth from net-zero.

The least popular roles were in industries that will have the greatest demand, including heat pump installers (7%) and retrofit coordinators (9%).

Skills gap

In addition to low awareness, green jobs are seen as being for those who take an academic route, which limits how many people feel they can access them.

Only 5% of young people pictured someone in a green job as having not gone to university, despite many roles being well-suited to vocational training.

When asked about barriers to working in the green economy, young people reported that they didn’t have the necessary skills (27%), didn’t know enough about them (25%) or that the skills required would be too specialised (22%).

Despite almost half (49%) of young people stating that climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time, only 18% said that the environmental sustainability of their employer would be a factor in deciding between jobs.

Spotlighting opportunities

Young people identified that opportunity for progression (49%), job security (48%) and flexible hours (48%) would increase their interest in working in the green economy, qualities they did not associate with green jobs.

Poor pay was identified as the top disadvantage of green jobs, with 25% of young people citing this.

In addition to the poll, research consultancy Public First ran five online focus groups with young people from areas that are due to see significant numbers of new green jobs – the West Midlands, Teesside, and Fife, Scotland.

The focus groups conducted during this research found the scepticism about the benefits of green jobs arose from a lack of understanding about these roles, demonstrating that the way they are being marketed to young people doesn’t connect with what they care about.

Lindsey Wright, head of future sectors at The Prince’s Trust, said: “This report provides a stark warning about how much needs to be done to educate young people about green jobs and offer structured pathways into training and employment.

“We look forward to strengthening our partnerships with existing and new partners to deliver on this vision. Problematically, young people who could benefit most from these opportunities do not see themselves as suitable.”

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