When discussing degree choice with a recent graduate, it was clear that little information had been provided on the subject of sustainability focused careers: for example in conservation and environmental protection, plastics and pollution control, renewable energy, energy efficiency, climate change, sustainability - or in any of the other new and emerging sustainability focused career choices .
The missing “green” aspect
Professional skills training academies have been set up over the last few years providing training for careers in renewable energy in particular, however little is currently being done to introduce the range of jobs and new career paths now available to young people. Ideally information should be provided at ages 11-14, before GCSE subject choices are made, and continue to be offered at sixth form/FE colleges, universities and business schools. While the need for engineers and others with technical skills has been recognised, there is a growing need for non technical skills, for specialists in areas such as climate policy and regulation, planning, marketing, communication and public relations, and consultancy – as well as for designers, architects, and a wide range of other professionals who can translate sustainability principles into mainstream products and services.
For young people seeking their first sustainability focused role, the chicken and egg scenario – unable to find a job without work experience definitely applies and can be even more challenging, given that many green industries are in the early stages of development.
For experienced professionals, with the right skill sets who lack relevant industry experience, the unwillingness of employers (and recruiters) to think outside the box, is an additional issue. However, employers in green growth industries often report skills shortages – either because the talent pipeline is not strong enough, or because their industry is undergoing rapid growth or transformation.
Can we help?
We are often approached by experienced professionals who want to change to a career path with a sustainability focus. We begin by analysing transferable skills and core competencies in order to assist a smooth transition. We may also suggest further training. However employers still tend to favour candidates who are already established on a sustainable career path. We are working to meet this challenge.
Can the education system meet the challenge of educating the next generation to work in the emerging green industries – or is there a need for systemic change at a more fundamental level? Perhaps a good start would be reduced tuition fees (together with other incentives) for those who choose degree courses or undertake professional development or training which is designed to promote sustainability in all its forms.
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