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Your new job: could it be greener than you think?

Logo: Our Bright Future

By Roberta Antonaci, Policy and Advocacy Manager

Young people making improvements to green spaces
Young people making improvements to green spaces

As society begins to slowly emerge from the Covid-19 health crisis, there is an urgent need to shift to a greener economy, that will protect and regenerate the natural environment, and better sustain the people who depend on it. We need to remember that Covid-19 is not the only crisis we are currently dealing with, as we are in the middle of a climate and nature emergency, and the two are inextricably linked. Therefore, they must be addressed together as part of broader efforts to achieve a green and inclusive recovery.

Often when green jobs are discussed, we hear about wind turbine engineers, home insulation installers, or people managing green finance initiatives. But some of the most vital green jobs involve working directly with the natural environment, whether it’s ecologists, hedge layers, nature reserve managers or environmental educators.

Young volunteer working with the design team at Hill Holt Wood to deliver local projects
Young volunteer working with the design team at Hill Holt Wood to deliver local projects

It will be impossible to meet the UK’s environmental goals without a workforce that has a range of nature and conservation skills. 41% of wildlife in the UK is in long-term decline, 97% of wildflower meadows have disappeared, and none of our lakes or rivers are classed as healthy. To change this, we need people in green jobs, in nature.

Unfortunately, there are clear gaps in skills and capacity, and a shortage of secure employment opportunities for young people, particularly for those from a disadvantaged background. How can we ensure that the sector is inclusive and really open to new generations? I would like to share some ideas coming from my work with the innovative Our Bright Future, a five-year initiative funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and led by The Wildlife Trusts. The programme, formed of 31 projects across the UK, has engaged over 127,500 young people, and empowered them to become skilled and engaged citizens, contributing to a greener economy.

First, our report, Support for young people to work in the environmental sector, has highlighted how well-funded, sustainable long-term programmes give jobs and training to young people within the environmental sector. Personalised and intensive support offered by high quality staff, entry level living wage for trainees, focus on confidence building, soft skills, team working and varied work experience, and ability to flex in order to meet individual needs are some of the elements that made these schemes so successful. The evidence gathered demonstrates that environmental organisations play an important role in helping young people’s access to work, especially for those who are not in education, employment or training.

Impact of environmental projects on young people’s confidence, skills and employability

98% of participants felt more confident about moving into full time work (Uprising Environmental Leadership programme)

95% of trainees learnt new skills that will help with employability (London Wildlife Trust Keeping It Wild)

19 out of 21 participants are in employment or further education (Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Tomorrow’s Natural Leaders programme)

92% of trainees either went onto employment in the conservation sector or further education (The Conservation Volunteers Natural Talent UK traineeship programme)

Young people supporting the Our Bright Future Asks
Young people supporting the Our Bright Future Asks

Secondly, Green Jobs Fairs offer a brilliant opportunity for young people taking their first steps into the environmental sector. Last year, Our Bright Future took part in the Green Jobs Fair organised by London Wildlife Trust held at Walthamstow Wetlands. The event supported more than 60 young people to talk with employers from a range of areas within the environmental sector, including conservation charities, museums, tech and horticulture companies. Young attendees also received career advice and tips for their job search, took part in conservation taster workshops and got their questions answered via Green Talks sessions, like Careers in Nature run by Edwin Malins, Head of Conservation at London Wildlife Trust.

"It was very informative but also inspiring and motivating as it built a bridge beyond job applications & cover letter, we were able to build relationships and start conversations with potential employers." Green Jobs Fair participant

Young students gleaning pumpkins
Young students gleaning pumpkins

Events like these are so useful in building a bridge between young people looking for a job and potential employers. At Our Bright Future, we are currently planning a Green Jobs online event, with a panel of young people sharing their experience of how they broke into the environmental sector and job experts giving out some useful advice. If you are looking for an entry-level job, it’s the event for you! Stay tuned by signing up to our Newsletter!

I am also very impressed by the energy and determination of many young people who are helping others to pursue their career in our sector. For example, a group of young people at Shropshire Wildlife Trust has created a fantastic careers booklet. Featuring real life case studies and detailed role requirements, A Career in the Environment is a brilliant guide for anyone looking for an environmental job, especially if it’s their first job. I believe that our role as environmental leaders is to facilitate this to happen more and more, now and in the future. In this way, young people are upskilled and empowered to support each other to take action for nature and bring their environmental values, skills and interests into their dream jobs, no matter what this is.

And this leads me to the final point that I’d like to share with you, a challenge that directly comes from young people in Our Bright Future. As they clearly and rightly put it, if we are serious about addressing both the climate and nature emergencies, we have to be bold and go even beyond the environmental sector, with every job being a green job.

How can we ensure that green skills, like an improved understanding of biodiversity and sustainability, are an integral part of everyone’s skills base now and in the future? How can we ensure that every possible job, from a plumber to a teacher, from an accountant to a bus driver, is truly and genuinely green? This is the real challenge of our times! One that the young people I spoke with are ready to embrace, with our support. Please share your views sending us an email at ourbrightfuture@wildlifetrusts.org.

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Posted On: 02/03/2022

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