We need to get the next generation excited about green jobs

As we look towards a green economic recovery and the objective to build back better from the pandemic, there is a clear argument for aligning how we futureproof the country's workforce with UK climate ambitions.

We need to get the next generation excited about green jobs

It’s important when you look at figures from the Office for National Statistics, which showed that 250,000 fewer people aged 16-24 are in education, employment or training than at the start of the pandemic. At the same time, we’re hearing that hundreds of thousands of jobs are needed to achieve a clean energy transition – our own research shows the UK needs 400,000 new jobs by 2050, from IT, business analysts and engineers, to roles in hydrogen, electric vehicles and carbon capture and storage, as the net-zero journey develops.

Green jobs need to be at the heart of delivering the green industrial revolution, tackling climate change and addressing unemployment. Many sectors and industries are facing a skills gap that will impact their ability to contribute to tackling climate change. The talent exists but we lack the right capabilities to achieve the huge amount of work needed to reach our climate goals. Getting the right people and skills in place hinges on a few factors, in particular, ramping up efforts to get today’s young people excited about green careers and making future green jobs accessible to all.

Young people are critical for plugging the green skills gap. As government strategies and plans continue to develop ahead of 2030 and 2050 climate goals, and with a huge push across the country through Green Skills Week this week (w/c 5 April), business and government need to do their part to educate and inspire young people and encourage them to consider their future in the green economy.

From providing practical advice on different opportunities and the spectrum of jobs roles available, to opening doors to unconsidered futures, there is plenty that can be done. COP26 this year provides a huge chance to crank up communications, events and engagement as the UK government seeks to include the whole country in its roadmap to net zero. We need children and students across the country to really understand green career prospects so they can make informed decisions and know what being part of the generation tackling climate change really means.

Industries and sectors need to come together on this issue – for example, the National Grid ‘Grid for Good’ programme aims to rally the energy sector to come together and provide access to employment and training opportunities to disadvantaged or disconnected youth. Providing them with insights, work experience, mentoring and placements will be critical to helping raise awareness around the role they could play in driving sustainability and climate change agendas. Schemes like this can also give them valuable exposure to role models and help build their network as they explore what a career in a green job could look like. And embedded within all of this must be efforts to reach diverse talent – diverse minds and experiences are critical to reaching net zero.

Additionally, businesses can engage with schools through competitions and workshops to get them thinking about, for example, hydrogen solutions for the future or engaging them on topics such as electric vehicles. As well as motivating school children and students, steps must also be taken to engage teachers and parents on the quality of green jobs available, the trajectory of roles within this space and why it’s a great opportunity for young people in the long term.

The clock is ticking. The size and scale of solutions to deliver on climate and sustainability agendas cannot be underestimated. They will require collective efforts across sectors, industries and government, bringing together new skills and mindsets from across the UK. Building the workforce that can achieve what needs to be done is a responsibility for all. And vital to this will be harnessing the young talent that can help secure a greener future.

Dina Potter is global head of social impact at National Grid

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