Investing in the future by teaching young people the importance of green skills

Few will forget seeing images of Australia in flames throughout the second half of 2019. The extent of the devastation caught on camera was enough to make even the most seasoned cynics among us understand how real the threat of climate change to our planet really is.

Faced with the enormity of the global climate crisis, it’s easy to feel powerless to contribute to the cause. But as conservationist, wildlife presenter and Sky Zero ambassador Steve Backshall shared in his recent broadcast for Green Skills Week, when it comes to saving our planet, each of us can make a positive impact:

‘It can feel overwhelming with some of the big goals that we have for conservation. If you start with these, you can feel small and insignificant. Well, you’re not. Every individual can make a massive difference. Starting small and realising that is really important.’

Steve was one of 80+ expert speakers from a wide range of industries who joined us to share his valuable insight as part of Speakers for Schools’ Green Skills Week. This annual campaign is designed to educate young people on the importance of the natural world to our economy and to highlight the many opportunities that exist for building a future founded on cleaner, greener principles.

There’s plenty of sustainable snippets from the likes of Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas, CEO of the Green Finance Institute, Dame Mary Archer, Chair of the Science Museum Group and William Russell, the Lord Mayor of the City of London and many more. If you missed any of the talks and want to learn more about the green economy, drop in to visit our broadcast library – in true green skills fashion, we don’t believe in single-use, so every broadcast can be listened to over and over again!

Over the course of our Green Skills Week, we have also been hosting over 4,000 young people for green skills-themed virtual work experience placements with companies including Sky, Man Group, Anglian Water, National Grid, British Airways and a further 37 other leading UK employers.

We’re always delighted to hear what young people have to say and the feedback received from the last few days indicates that it’s been a really worthwhile experience for everyone taking part. The placements are still underway, but every single one of the survey respondents so far has rated their overall experience as 4 or 5 out of 5 stars.. We’ve also received lots of very positive comments from participating students, a Year 11 student, who attended an insight day with the University of Derby, said:

‘I think that my placement was very informative and a great insight into possible choices for my future. I feel reassured that there are many other people like me who are passionate about doing their bit for the world.’

Doing our bit and doing our best to reduce our personal carbon footprint is one way we can each minimise our environmental impact, no matter where we live or what we do. Following a recent virtual work experience at Construction Bootcamp, Year 13 student Gosia from Northern Ireland, learnt a lot about sustainability in the construction industry, but she also just how easy it is to make small changes to her own lifestyle to make a positive difference. Since her placement, Gosia has consciously chosen to only buy items when she really needs them, and she’s also encouraged her family to cut down on the number of trips they make in the car.

Gosia plans to pursue a career in construction following her Green Skills work experience and she is not the only one to have been inspired by Green Skills Week. A whopping 87% of our survey respondents feel more inspired to pursue a career which contributes positively to the environment following their placements and 80% have indicated that, thanks to their work experience, they now have a better understanding of the green economy.

It’s clear that seeing how businesses are tackling climate change helps the younger generation to seize the opportunities for positive change themselves. Over 80% of our survey respondents said that following their placement, they would prefer to work for an employer with good green credentials. We know how important it is for young people to feel positive about their future and at Speakers for Schools we are committed to providing life-changing opportunities for people like Gosia and the thousands of other young people who joined our Green Skills Week.

This is just the beginning, 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. In June 2019, the UK became the first major economy to pass laws to bring all greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050 and since then the UK government has announced its 10-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution which will create and support 250,000 jobs across the clean energy, transport, nature and innovative technologies.

It’s not too late to be part of this year’s Green Skills Week. We’re running a Green Skills Challenge, in partnership with Man Group, for students across the UK right now. We want you to do some digging to find out how green some of the world’s biggest businesses really are.

Coaching sessions with three green industry leaders are up for grabs for the winning team. Plus winners will also get the chance to join the Speakers for Schools Green Skills Youth Council and take part in a one-of-a-kind social media takeover during the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow this November.

To find out about how to enter, visit the Green Skills Week website.

And that’s not all. Our partners Eco Schools, Keep Britain Tidy and National Grid are still accepting applications for virtual work experience for budding young eco warriors, so there’s plenty of ways to keep your green skills fresh!

Keep an eye out for our upcoming campaign Predict ’21: Future Careers taking place in June. We’ll be offering more opportunities for virtual work experience and providing lots of great content, including lots more inspiring broadcasts, around all manner of technology-related careers – from the obvious to new roles you may have never dreamt of!