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Young people look to a green future

4 July 2013

Severn Wye Energy Agency is a local charity which aims to promote sustainable energy and affordable warmth through partnership, awareness-raising, innovation and strategic action. The agency received a grant of £8,150 from the Big Lottery Fund to run its ‘Your Green Future’ event for 13-19 year olds.

On 6 and 7 June 2013, over 400 students from Worcestershire and Herefordshire attended the event at the University of Worcester. In this guest blog, Cecily Etherington explains what the students did across the two days.

Cecily Etherington

Cecily Etherington

As we move towards a low-carbon and more sustainable economy, jobs are being created right across the board, in areas including ecology, technology and renewable energy.

Despite this, a recent EU analysis* revealed that skill shortages already constrain the transition to a greener economy in terms of preparing for some new occupations and the changing skill profile of existing occupations.

And with over 1 million 16-24 year olds unemployed in the UK, it’s vital that young people are informed of the enterprising and exciting opportunities that are open to them within the green economy, and given the necessary support and advice to access the appropriate training and qualifications.

In recognition of this, Severn Wye Energy Agency developed the Your Green Future events, aimed at inspiring 13 – 19 year olds with the job opportunities available in the green economy.

An Awards for All grant enabled us to work with the University of Worcester, Worcestershire Council, Rotary and STEMnet to run one such event at the University of Worcester on 6 and 7 June 2013.

Before this we had surveyed over 300 13 to 19-year-olds in the area, and 94 percent said they would like to speak to more people about job opportunities. 89 percent would like to get involved in more sustainable activities.

Pupils are shown the workings of car engine

Pupils are shown the workings of car engine

It was therefore fantastic to see over 40 diverse businesses, including Jaguar Land Rover, Waitrose, Carillion and npower; 400 secondary school students from 26 schools; rotarians and university students all come together to explore the issues of sustainability at the event.

Topics that were explored in the workshops included; how carbon emissions can be reduced; the stages of product development, what national government, business and communities can do to address resource depletion; and the skills needed within the green economy.

In Green Innovation, a Dragons’ Den-style workshop, students with an imaginary £1 million to invest were questioning engineers over the financial returns and environmental benefits of their products, such as Tata Motors European Technical Centre’s electric car.

Students also engaged their creative side and developed a fashion or food item of today into a product fit for 2025, including one idea for a pair of trainers that created electricity for charging your phone.

The Energy workshop saw groups of students improve the sustainability of various settlements’ energy use and decide which of the businesses, including Solar Solutions Malvern and Caplor Energy, they would hire to undertake the job.

School pupils in science sessions

Hundreds of school pupils got involved in hands-on sessions

Students were encouraged to use their media skills to envisage what headline news stories may be on 6 or 7 June 2025, with Stephanie Preece, News Editor of the Worcester News, judging the entries. Ideas included:

‘Scientists have come up with an idea for solar energy panels to actually orbit the earth!’

‘Governments from around the world agreed to abolish all competition for global resources and embrace collaboration.’

The young people displayed real excitement and enthusiasm in working together, and understanding in how they could develop their skills for their future employment. Wandering around the event it was great to overhear everything that was going on. The exhibition hall was full of students questioning businesses about their work, the kind of jobs they offered and pathways into work, from apprenticeships to PhDs.

For a full list of attendees, workshops and details of future events visit www.yourgreenfuture.org

Cecily Etherington is project manager at Severn Wye Energy Agency

What are your thoughts on Cecily’s blog? Are you running a project engaging young people? Leave your comments below or join the conversation on Twitter @biglotteryfund.

* The European Centre for the Development of Vocational training (2009) Future Skill Needs for the Green Economy, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the EU

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