Jason Elsom is CEO of the youth social mobility charity, Speakers for Schools

#GreenSkillsWeek - Shining a spotlight on the green economy and opening the minds of young people to the jobs available 

No one can dispute that the pandemic has played havoc with lives and livelihoods by disrupting employment and education, and threatening the foundations of our economy.  But as we have seen before, disruption on such a massive scale provides an opportunity to challenge those things which we have accepted as the norm and catalyse change.

Although the UK became the first major economy to pass laws on bringing all greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050, back in June 2019, it is the pandemic that has truly cemented our ambitions to protect the planet and confront climate change. With the lack of domestic and foreign travel, paired with the inability to shop and consume food or goods in the same way we used to, we have started to reevaluate how we think and live.

Businesses and policymakers alike have been encouraged to form a more defined and committed focus on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG), creating a wave of new opportunities for innovation and sustainable employment across the economy.

The UK government’s 10-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution will create 250,000 jobs alone across clean energy, transport, nature and technologies.

Young people have played an undeniably important role in lobbying for environmental change, keener than ever to pursue careers with a social purpose. Yet, arguably they are also the demographic most impacted by the pandemic, with diminished employability prospects and disrupted learning. The climate emergency is as stark as youth unemployment.

Therefore, as we emerge from the pandemic, we must ensure our future workforce is equipped with the right skills and knowledge to enter careers with long-term growth prospects and the opportunity to make a positive impact on the planet.

Many ‘green jobs’ are relatively new and unknown 

The global demand for green skills will grow in line with the growth of the global green economy, and the picture in the UK is already looking more positive. However, many ‘green jobs’ are relatively new and unknown.

That is why Speakers for Schools has teamed up the with UK’s most environmentally friendly employers to launch Green Skills Week, taking place this week, aimed at shining a spotlight on the green economy and opening the minds of young people to the jobs available, or becoming available.

In total we are facilitating 5,000 virtual placements across a variety of roles and sectors, from designing decarbonised transport, marketing largescale recycling projects to becoming a Ranger for a conservation area.

We are also welcoming over 60 business and political leaders who have been providing a series of virtual talks throughout the week, including Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England and Luke Ellis, CEO of Man Group. What better way to understand green skills than hearing from sector leaders who can pass on their first-hand knowledge and experience.

While this campaign stretches a week, our work to connect young people with industry-leading, environmentally-friendly employers spans the entire year. We facilitate work experience placements and inspirational talks on an ongoing basis. However, a dedicated week unites businesses, educators and policymakers in acknowledgement of the role of the green economy, both as part of our wider efforts to tackle climate change, but also to help young people succeed in life.

The call to action for educators 

As the UK aims to reach net-zero by 2050, the key players who will make this happen are in education today. Clearly, young people possess the gumption to tackle climate change, but are perhaps less aware of how that can translate into a career.

Businesses have a key role to play in connecting with young people, as do we as educators and career education professionals. Our role is to help build pathways for all young people, so that they can realise their potential and understand the importance of the green economy.

Organising work experience is an essential method to achieving this, providing young people with an invaluable opportunity to engage with employers, build self-confidence and instil hope for a brighter future as we look to rebuild after the pandemic.

Jason Elsom is CEO of the youth social mobility charity, Speakers for Schools, championing campaigns such as Green Skills Week to open the minds of young people from all backgrounds to careers they have not yet considered.

Find out more about Green Skills Week here.

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