Upskilling young people will be critical to delivering on net-zero ambitions

A lot has happened since World Youth Skills Day last year (15 July). Nevertheless, it remains very clear that achieving net zero goals will involve upskilling and training today’s young people so they can successfully deliver critical climate targets.

National Grid research shows we’ll need 400,000 green jobs in the energy sector to reach 2050 targets. Meanwhile, the government’s recent Energy Security Bill set out investment plans to diversify domestic energy supply which will support around 480,000 green jobs. These are crucial roles for achieving everything from 50GW offshore wind to the decarbonisation of heat and transport – all of which will enable the UK to hit net-zero.

Young people are key to achieving energy goals, and equipping them with the skills to do so has never been more important. Employers need to strengthen their workforces and build the skills they’ll need in the coming years – and this starts with engaging with young people about sustainability roles and the role they can play in delivering potential solutions to climate change.

Engage with schools

new report shows that young people who want careers that help the planet lack the knowledge and understanding of which skills businesses need to reach net-zero. The report from Learning & Work Institute and commissioned by WorldSkills UK cautions that the UK risks missing its net zero targets unless young people receive the advice needed to pursue a green career.

Businesses have a responsibility to educate and raise awareness of the net zero opportunities available. At National Grid, for example, there will be jobs in electric vehicles, hydrogen, innovation and more.

Whether it’s preparing resources and materials to share with schools, addressing classrooms on climate change topics or arranging visits to education centres and projects that highlight exciting infrastructure – there are many ways to engage with young people and get them thinking about net zero career paths. One step we’re taking is to provide inspiring educational content introducing children to the world of energy and sustainable futures through our Engage programme. Using creative media and teaching aids, we are working to inspire the next generation of STEM talent into our industry

Training and skills development will attract and retain the best people

As leaders look at the next phase of their business, ensuring they have the right people is a vital part of the planning. To evolve and reach new milestones, they must attract new talent, in addition to upskilling and developing their existing workforce to retain their best people.

At National Grid, apprenticeships are important for strengthening the skills in our business. These programmes teach cohorts the skills they’ll need to, for example, look after substation equipment, support on projects that enable the UK and Europe to share renewable energy or bring more offshore wind onto the grid, while also obtaining relevant qualifications.

Harnessing diverse young people

Linked to apprenticeship and graduate programmes, employers can consider initiatives that help young individuals from diverse backgrounds access employment and training. The National Grid ‘Grid for Good’ programme helps young people from diverse groups gain insight into the energy sector, with mentorship and networking opportunities, and skills development, work experience and placements. We’re seeing real success with individuals who might not otherwise have considered our sector taking on full time roles in our teams.

These programmes can work across all sectors, not just energy. For example, ‘The Challenge’ is part of the Premier League Inspires programme which supports 11-25-year-olds who are at risk of not reaching their potential as they move through the education system and early adulthood. ‘The Challenge’ empowers participants to pursue social-action projects and make a difference in the world around them.

Young people will bring long-term benefits

Bringing new ideas, approaches and perspectives to climate change challenges and solutions, we know young people have an important role in reaching net zero. The need to innovate and explore technologies will continue in the years ahead, and it’s vital businesses look at harnessing this talent pool and supporting skills development now.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie