The UN has acknowledged the significance of the connection between the green transition and green jobs for young people in the run-up to the SDG Summit in September, which will mark the halfway point for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. By 2030, a green transition will result in the creation of 8.4 million jobs for young people, predicts the International Labour Organisation (ILO).[i] These jobs are known as "green jobs," which the UN defines as jobs that support environmentally friendly processes or the creation of green goods and services in order to preserve or restore the environment.[ii] So that they may successfully navigate this changing world and take advantage of the opportunities it brings, young people need to be well-equipped with green skills.
Antonio Guterres’ comments capture the essence of the UN’s theme for this year’s international youth day (IYD). With a focus on green skills for youth, the aims of IYD 2023 are:
• To raise awareness of green skills and their relevance for achieving the SDGs while highlighting the central role of young people in the green transition.
• To equip stakeholders with the knowledge and information necessary to understand the importance of green skills for young people.
• To showcase policies and practices that can nurture the development of green skills among young people.
• To provide an inclusive platform for stakeholders to exchange views on such topics.[iii]
Four key tenets make up the foundation of this years theme.
1. Youth will endure the impacts of the climate crisis for a longer time
a. A child born in 2020 will experience 6.8x more heatwaves, 2x more wildfires, 2.6x more droughts, 2.8x more floods and 2.8x more crop failure.[iv]
b. 7/10 young people want to be actively involved in the green transition.[v]
2. Youth will see huge changes in economic opportunities
a. Climate change threatens 40% of all jobs.[vi]
b. By 2030, 8.4 million will be created in the green economy for young people.[vii]
3. Skills demand is exceeding supply
a. 60% of young people will lack the green skills required to thrive in the green economy of 2030.[viii]
b. LinkedIn analysis shows that green skills are increasing at a slower pace than the number of jobs that require them.[ix]
4. Disparities in opportunity must be addressed.
a. 67% of young people lack the necessary digital skills to take full advantage of upskilling opportunities.[x]
b. Current occupational gender stereotypes mean that, if unaddressed, 19 million jobs in the green transition will be created for men and only 6 million for women.[xi]
The IYD 2023 webinar began with a discussion on skills for green jobs. Heuk Yeung Chun, a technical officer at the International Labour Organisation, described three broad categories of skills that will allow young people to thrive in a green economy.
“The skills that the young people should possess is a good combination of different types… first of all technical skills that are specific to occupations such as skills related to wind turbine installation maintenance repair would be important. Secondly, foundational skills, so-called literacy numeracy, I think these days we can also add digital and environmental literacy that becomes the basis for any learning and work... Last but not least, core skills are important so-called soft skills such as Communication, business skills, teamwork skills, and negotiation skills that are not specific to the occupation perse but that are portable from one occupation to another from one sector to another that enhance the employability of the young people in the labour market.”[xii]
Such a description demonstrates that, whilst technical occupation-specific skills are vital, broad, transferable soft skills are the bedrock upon which change is made. Building soft skills requires engagement and involvement. Young people should be allowed a seat at the table, even if it is just in a learning capacity. This will mean that by the time they are ready to make change within their organisation, they have already been equipped with the necessary communication, business acumen and planning abilities that they need to be effective.
The next portion of the webinar discussed the need for upskilling for young people at greater length, but Andrea De Remes, a member of the Youth Peoples Action Team at generation unlimited and STEM entrepreneur, reminded the audience that whilst more is needed, action is being taken by youth now.
“We're also part of the solution I think this is one of the very important things to consider youth is not the future anymore we’re the present we're the ones taking action to ensure that the planet becomes sustainable that global warming doesn't continue to go up that is the opposite that it comes down and we have provided so many interesting solutions to make sure that this is the case so don't consider us just someone else to bring to the table for five minutes we are here to help you build sustainable solutions for all.”[xiii]
Andrea’s comments remind us all that the pursuit of a more highly green skilled generation should not blind us to the role that those young people who have the skills can and are playing right now.
Oscar is a recent graduate with a background in earth science. He is currently studying an MSc focussing on disaster responses, emergency planning and community resilience. His postgraduate research project will assess the link between climate crisis risk perception and attitudes to green energy projects. “Adapting to the climate crisis through the pursuit of net zero requires community engagement and understanding. Zero Carbon Academy’s goals closely align with this approach and I’m excited to have the opportunity to research and communicate a variety of topics relating to our environment and sustainability”.