Comments from Stephanie Burras CBE, Chief Executive of Ahead Partnership
This week marks Green Careers Week and with that, there’s no better time to be thinking about how we can excite young people about the opportunities that decarbonisation is creating for them. Indeed, jobs linked to sustainability and climate change response are no longer just ‘nice to haves’ for businesses, but will be critical across all industries if we are to meet the government’s net zero targets by 2050.
By 2030, there will be an estimated 24 million jobs within the ‘green economy’ – a loose term which covers roles within sectors as diverse as energy, the built environment, fashion and law. However beyond this, every job function within every industry is going to feel the influence of changing organisational behaviour when it comes to meeting our collective decarbonisation goals.
Whilst we are already seeing a huge increase in demand for specific skills, there are challenges around getting this information through to the next generation. Young people are undoubtedly engaged with the green agenda but insight from WorkSkillsUK and the Learning and Work Institute shows that although 62% say they’re passionate about sustainability, a shocking 63% have never heard of any green jobs. Our own experience with young people bears this out, with young people making assumptions that green jobs are low paid or not “proper jobs”. Many cite parental attitude or influence for the views they hold.
Early and continuous engagement with young people, their parents and teachers will be vital if we are to address this misperception and lack of knowledge. We saw this first hand through work we undertook with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to canvass the level of awareness and enthusiasm of young people across West Yorkshire around working in the green economy. Our insight revealed that the biggest barrier for young people is a lack of awareness: almost 50% of the young people we surveyed before undertaking this work rated their understanding of green jobs as ‘poor’ or ‘satisfactory’.
However, after taking part in activities where they heard first-hand from those working in the green economy, this figure dropped to 6 per cent. This shows the value of engaging with young people and employers to translate green jobs into opportunities that young people can understand. By bringing employers and schools together to explain and contextualise all these opportunities in a way that excites and inspires, we can improve perceptions not only among young people, but with their parents, carers, and teachers as well.