How to get a green job
Interest in green jobs is on the rise among millennials and Gen Z, according to a survey by The Ecologist. But competition is stiff and youth unemployment is a growing concern, particularly given the pandemic.
That's why we commissioned a report by Transition Economics to figure out what the government should do to create more green jobs, and how much it should invest. As part of that report, we asked for advice from young people who've succeeded in finding a green role.
Here's what they had to say.
Don’t let your grades stop you. Georgia, Assistant Transport Planner at WSP.
When Georgia didn’t get the A-level grades she needed for aerospace engineering, she didn’t let it hold her back. She secured an apprenticeship with WSP, an engineering consultancy firm. As well as learning on the job, she's undertaking a part-time degree at Aston University funded by her employer and the government. "Don’t worry if you don’t shine academically. There are other routes, but you do have to look for them", says Georgia. Taking this route means Georgia will be financially independent with no student debt at the end of her training.
Get involved with your local community to gain experience. Katrina, Social Media Manager at Ecotricity.
Katrina initially struggled to find green roles advertised, and thinks there's a gap in the job search market for green jobs listings.
As well as putting in the hours job hunting, Katrina believes gaining experience is key to landing a green role. "Get involved in local communities and green charities such as Friends of the Earth to volunteer and learn new skills and network. Once you're 'in' the sector, it'll be easier to move about to other green jobs."
Keep an eye on dates. Jake, Apprentice Wind Turbine Technician at Ørsted.
Jake spent a lot of time looking into Ørsted before applying to study through them, so he was ready and waiting when the application process opened. "If you know where you want to work or study, keep an eye on the company’s social media channel as they often post when the process opens. "
Enrol on a Geographic Information System (GIS) course. Karl, Project Assistant at Community Windpower.
The first in his family to go to university, Karl understands the barriers faced by many young people entering the green industry. And like many graduates, Karl soon discovered that the green job sector is a competitive one. To give yourself an edge over other candidates, he recommends learning GIS – "it's a requirement in many green jobs." Have a look for books and webinars on GIS. There are also free online courses available.
Don’t let a lack of relevant experience stop you from applying. Chelsea, People and Culture Manager at LettUsGrow.
Your transferable skills, strengths and passion are all equally as important as relevant experience. Chelsea’s experience in hospitality turned out to be an incredibly helpful skill in helping her secure her current green job, a customer-focused role in a startup supplying equipment to farms. Her passion for sustainable agriculture and previous experience meant she’d already got the startup on her radar. "Have a list of your favourite companies, and every few months reach out to show interest."
Look for specialist schools or colleges. Kieran, Technical Apprentice at Siemens Gamesa.
Kieran was lucky enough to know exactly what he wanted to be doing early on in his life. At the age of 14, he enrolled into a specialist learning University Technical College (UTC), an employer-led learning opportunity where you prepare for the world of work and study a technical subject of your choice. Through this, Kieran found out about apprenticeship opportunities with various organisations. With so many applications for apprenticeship roles, he believes his education at a UTC gave him an "edge" over other candidates and opened doors into the green jobs sector.
Find a person you admire in the sector and reach out. Gregorio, Senior Associate in Business Services at Carbon Trust.
Gregorio works with businesses to help them understand their exposure to climate change-related risks. His role, like many others, required certain qualifications. But before you commit yourself to further studies or to a particular area of sustainability, talk to someone.
"My top tip would be to find and contact a person that you admire. It could be head of sustainability at Patagonia or Carlsberg – whatever sector you’re interested in. Reach out to them (LinkedIn is a good tool for that) and see if they’re open to having a call or meet for a coffee, once we’re out of the pandemic. I think most people are quite open to sharing their experience and tips on how they got to where they are today. That's what I did when trying to understand which area of sustainability was right for me – I reached out and took advice from people I looked up to."
Learn from the "no's". Stuart, Consultant at Community Windpower.
Putting your heart into an application and being told "no" is a difficult experience, and one which can put you off trying to pursue your goals. Everyone gets told "no" at some point in their life, it's a common experience and doesn’t mean you won’t be able to secure your green job. "Ask lots of questions, read as much as you can and don’t be put off if you don’t succeed the first time", advises Stuart, who now works as a Consultant in Community Windpower. "You need to put yourself in the best possible position to stand out."
Be open-minded about what a green job is. Hannah, Sustainability Manager for a Veterinary Group and Clare, Policy and Research Advisor at Urban Transport Group.
There are lots of different sustainability roles that aren’t in traditional green sectors. "Do your research", says Hannah. Don’t just type in "green jobs" in a search engine. Find companies that you’re interested in and investigate the sorts of roles available.
Clare agrees. "We think of green jobs as doing something specifically around sustainability. But if you think about it, there are lots of green jobs that are green because they have a smaller carbon footprint and aren’t in a polluting or damaging sector, like librarians for instance. So, we need to broaden our idea of what a green job entails."
If you’re not sure where to start, Hannah recommends either talking to a career's advisor or checking out National Careers Service online.
Find a course that offers a placement. Florence, Master’s Student in Water, Energy and the Environment at Liverpool John Moores.
When looking at potential courses that'll help you secure a green job, look at the "extras" that each course offers. Florence did an undergraduate degree which included a placement at Community Windpower, where she gained professional experience in the workplace. The placement gave Florence clarity and developed her interest in renewable energy.
Stock up on transferable skills. Ephie, Clean Energy Specialist at Good Energy.
It’s easy to feel disheartened when it comes to job hunting. And it’s just as easy to end up staying in a job you don't like, feeling unfulfilled. Ephie felt the same when she finished her studies. But after struggling to gain an entry level job, she changed tact. Ephie sought interim roles to develop her transferable skills like communication and team working, before eventually securing her position at Good Energy. By sticking to her goal and staying committed, Ephie was able to gain a job in her dream sector.
Marry your passion with your job. Hannah, Renewables Graduate Engineer at Siemens Gamesa.
It’s always good to play to your strengths when it comes to picking a career, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do what you’re passionate about. "If you’re passionate about climate change, but not about maths and physics and yet you’re good at them, think about doing your bit for the climate through engineering in a green job." That way, you’re able combine your strengths and interests – a winning combination. Hannah has done exactly that in her role, which combines engineering with social justice and climate action.
Be wary of "greenwashing". Matt, Contractor.
The green sector is huge when you come to think of it, and a green job doesn't have to mean working for the renewable energy sector. It could mean doing a job you're interested in, just within a green company. But Matt advises doing the background research first. "Do be aware of greenwashing [when a company says it's green to look good, but doesn't actually perform well under closer scrutiny]." Find out what the company's ethos is and what they're doing to reduce carbon emissions.
The report by Transition Economics is supported by Teach the Future, National Union of Students, Students Organising for Sustainability UK and the Trades Union Congress.
The report is also proudly supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.