The Parents' Guide to identifying "Green Careers"
Green Careers focus on positive environmental impact and change, with jobs that protect the environment and will help the UK achieve its pledge of reaching Net Zero by 2050.
What is a Green career?
Green careers include roles that have a positive impact on the environment, such as conserving natural resources and mitigating harmful waste. The number of these types of job has been growing in recent years, and that's bound to continue as the need for greater energy efficiency and sustainability becomes more urgent.
When thinking about "Green Careers" we might instinctively consider anything where work directly protects biodiversity, looks after the oceans and reduces climate change, as these are the three primary pillars of focus. That could lead teens to think that in order to follow a Green career, they must be scientifically focused or a technical specialist. Whilst there's a need for such individuals, Green careers span a much broader portfolio. Many Green roles are emerging in industries where green credentials are becoming increasingly important but the association between the business itself and being green aren't necessarily closely connected - think fashion, for example.
Let's start by considering some industry sectors, then thinking about different roles connected with Green careers within them. As some opportunities are more obvious than others, let's take a closer look.
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Industries for Green Careers
The built environment
Building and construction accounts for nearly 40% of global CO2 emissions according to the World Green Building Council. Whether it's creating new structures (homes, offices, roads, bridges) or modifying existing ones, there's no doubt that any role within the built environment will need to look at ways of improving environmental impact. This reaches across architects, civil and structural engineers, manufacturers, procurement managers (both for purchasing materials for the construction itself and, for buildings, materials within the building later), site workers, and transportation managers to name a few. Notwithstanding roles within all of these areas can vary in skill level, each will have a significant part to play. Think outside the box for different careers:
Building performance analyst - identify performance issues with energy, maintenance and comfort in buildings
Recruitment consultant - specialising in permanent or temporary assignments within environment, planning, energy or civils
Waste Operations manager - implementing best practices, understanding and reporting on performance and ensuring compliance
Not everyone is practical and hands-on, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t roles for people with business and project management skills to contribute to helping businesses go green. Sustainability consultants advise how companies can lower their carbon footprint through assessing and evaluating the business. What's interesting here is that virtually all large companies have sustainability teams. This means for students keen on certain industries but without the relevant skills (say film, but no acting or production ability) it's possible to get a role in that sector looking at their sustainability impact.
Likewise, choosing to work for a company that has a reputation for ethical practices won't tie them into to a job role but will enable them to pursue work with companies that are aligned with their values. Companies with well-regarded environmental initiatives operating in the UK include: Divine Chocolate, Fairtrade, Innocent Drinks, Neal's Yard, Pukka and Starbucks.
Energy is crucial to climate change, not least because many greenhouse gases are generated through energy production. Renewable energy (where resources are replenished faster than they are consumed) will play an important role in moving towards a green Britain. Renewable energy sources include hydropower, bio, solar and wind energy. Roles can include project managers, solar power technicians, tidal power developers and wind energy engineers. Less obvious ways to be involved include:
Energy project officer - Support the project managers in managing project budgets, monitoring expenditure and costs, realising project outputs and looking after technical equipment
Offshore consent manager - support development of an offshore renewable energy project
Programme assistant to energy company - First point of contact for small business to help them start their energy saving process with referral to in-depth technical support when needed.
Farming, food production and distribution
We can't live without food! There may be variances in the impact of meat or meat free diets, but all our food has a significant environmental impact. It's not just in growing/producing it. Take a stroll round the supermarket to see first hand what's involved. Food has to be harvested, processed, stored, packaged and transported. When you bought fruit over the summer, did you check it was locally grown or had it been flown in from Europe (or even further afield)? If you want to make a difference at home, create a food producing space in a low maintenance garden.
Any role within the food industry has the potential to be a green career, and that includes educating people to eat local, natural, seasonal produce. You need only look at what sells in supermarkets (which wouldn't be offered if people weren't buying it!) to know that for many consumers convenience often trumps good intentions. Different ways to get involved:
Buyer - Senior Tea Buyer and Blender and Ethical Sourcing Manager
Consultant - deliver effective solutions to complex environmental problems occurring in agricultural and land use systems
Head of food transformation - support the food retail sector to deliver sustainable, healthy and affordable food for all, with the ambitious aim of halving the environmental footprint of the UK shopping basket by 2030 in a well known supermarket
The great outdoors
When thinking about the environment it seems natural to consider the great outdoors and there are plenty of roles that focus on protecting the land and wildlife around us. There are 15 national parks in the UK with forests, wetlands, meadows and peatlands covering over 10% of the land mass and welcoming 100 million visitors each year. They need looking after! Then there's local parks and commons, a myriad of stately homes with public access, and hundreds of nature reserves. Roles to consider:
Forestry creation officer - Increase tree cover to 30% in the country’s largest environmental regeneration initiative
Gardening assistant - Traineeship to develop sustainable garden in public access country estates
Nature conservation grazing manager - lead a team and manage livestock, with administrative skills to record key information relating to stock welfare, stock movements and habitat condition
And some surprises...
Your teen doesn't have to go mainstream to find a role they love. If they have interest, passion and the curiosity to find out more, they can find a job that's rewarding and satisfying - it might just need a little imagination and investigation! How about:
Amusement ride inspector - ensuring health and safety of all rides
1st Option Safety - providing health and safety training to the media and broadcasting industry, creating simulated terrorist situations to train reporters before they go to war zones
Urban grower - indoor farming to produce pesticide free food using less water and fertilizer than traditional methods
Does your teen have green credentials?
Show don't tell! If your teen is interested in a green career, they should try to get some first-hand experience to demonstrate their personal commitment and values. This could be joining environmental groups, helping community clear-ups, and most of all being able to demonstrate their own personal steps in being green (such as buying less and avoiding fast fashion, choosing local foods, recycling, using green transport).
If they're taking a gap year between school and university, many voluntary projects overseas involve green initiatives, such as providing access to clean water, making communities more resilient or conservation interventions - and there's no experience required.
Help them prepare for the future
What your teen does after GCSE and sixth form is both exciting and daunting. Feel confident chatting to them about their future options with our overview of everything that's available to them in: The Parent’s Guide to Post 16 options and The Parents' Guide to Post 18 options.
We always love to hear from you, so do let us know if there are any subjects you’d like us to chat to you about. Stay safe and keep happy, Vanessa and Darius - email@example.com