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Green skills for youth: are all young people interested in green opportunities?

An electric city car charges in the street.

Ahead of International Youth Day 2023, which is focused on how green skills for youth can help us to build towards a sustainable world, Catch22 Assistant Director of Partnerships, Carly McGoldrick considers how we can encourage young people into job and training opportunities within the green sector.

The short answer to this question is no. With Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion, and Just Stop Oil protests filling the media, a common assumption is that most, if not all, young people are environmentalists.

At Catch22, we know that life is more complicated for the people who we support: if a young person is struggling to support themselves financially and secure housing, the environment may well be important to them, but their primary concern is to start earning… quickly.

The green sector promises a wealth of new training and job opportunities. At Catch22, we ensure that people from all backgrounds can access future industries: supporting people into entry-level green roles through skills and employability programmes Green Spark and Grid for Good. Research we carried out with young climate action researchers found that the main barriers to green opportunities are:

  • knowing what a green job is,
  • educational requirements,
  • cost of training, and
  • the loss of income in pursuing training, which can take a long time to complete.

In our report with Green Alliance, Giving the green light: creating green jobs for all, we made a number of recommendations around awareness, training and employment:

With both an acute labour and skills shortage, the UK will struggle to deliver its net zero and nature targets. Without addressing these challenges, the UK will also miss the chance to expand access to good, green jobs for people currently left outside the labour market. To close the skills and labour gap, the government should turn to this pool of untapped labour by supporting disadvantaged individuals to enter green jobs.

In short, if we have any hope of delivering net zero targets, everyone needs to be involved. The latest labour market review from the Office for National Statistics showed that the unemployment rate for 16-24-year-olds is now 11.36%, (the highest it has been since July-September 2021), with the number of young people who are not in full-time education or employment up by over 82,000 compared to the same time last year.

With the green sector offering new opportunities, what can we do to support young people into these roles?

Start the conversation earlier

Education is key: young people should learn about green skills and jobs earlier, to form a clear career pathway. Practical, project-based learning can engage young people, in addition to insight sessions with people who have overcome similar challenges and succeeded in the green sector.

Involve young people

Co-design is everywhere, but how do we make this meaningful and not tokenistic? The young people who we support at Catch22 have brilliant ideas: we equip them with the skills, confidence and space to voice their views, for example in the Young People’s Benchmarking Forum.

Publish where green roles are available and when

There is a real need for transparency on green employment – industry should endeavour to publish what green roles are available, when, to avoid regional disparity and make sure more people can access these opportunities.

Create inclusive recruitment practices

At Catch22, we work closely with employers to develop inclusive recruitment practices and challenge their pre-requisites, asking questions such as: “Are these qualifications needed for this role?” and “Can the employee be trained on the job?”

Develop policy that supports better skills pathways

Recent policy stipulates that retrofitters must be fully-qualified electricians. What is the infrastructure supporting this and more widely, young people into green employment? Could existing systems be used, for example Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs)?

Shorten qualification routes and cover the cost of training

Training pathways need to be shorter so young people can get into green roles more quickly. Equally what funding is available to pay for training? Our Green Spark and Grid for Good programmes address this through incorporating skills training bursaries.

Offer better starting salaries

Apprenticeships are a great opportunity for on-the-job training. Employers need to assess the viability of the wages they are offering, and ensure they are competitive, so that young people apply.

Harness the passion of young people

There is a social dimension to climate change: young people can be trained in advocacy. There is also a wide range of innovation in this space. How do we engage young entrepreneurs and support them to create businesses that incorporate green innovation and the circular economy?

What is crucial to all of this is speed: with these simple changes, young people can be supported into roles and we can grow our green workforce at pace, essential for a greener future that is also fair.

– Carly McGoldrick, Assistant Director of Partnerships