Climate career plans must radically shift for the future

5 minutes read

For soon-to-be-school graduates, there can be uncertainties about what route to take with their professional lives, but many recognise that climate change will impact career choices, even if it may be too early to say how. 

Rising global temperatures directly affecting weather patterns impact far more than the environment. There are the associated political, social, and agricultural factors, to name just a few. No matter what career people choose, there will be some connection to climate change that will need consideration.

Other students are becoming increasingly aware of the reality of climate change and its influence on career plans. In a survey conducted by EdWeek Research Centre last year, a quarter of young people surveyed said that the impact of climate change had influenced their career choices. A further 20% stated that climate change had affected where they planned to study and train. 

According to Meena Naik, associate director at an education non-profit, Jobs for the Future, typically, the pressure to adapt career-focused education starts at the top with employers, moving to higher education and so on. In the case of climate change, this has transformed. The urgency for change is coming from students. Young people are driving for change because they’re seeing first-hand the jobs and recognising how the market needs to respond to the impacts of climate change. Around 30% of students surveyed by the EdWeek Research Centre said they wanted more information about job options related to climate change and sustainability, yet only 22% of teachers claimed they talked to their students about these career choices.

Industry leaders and associated studies like the EdWeek report indicate the need for a bigger drive to support young people to explore how climate change will affect their career choices and gain more relevant work experience in areas on the rise. This transformation needs to happen fast to secure the necessary talent to meet future demands. We must deliver genuine structured systems to engage and train the next generation and provide clear pathways into skills and qualifications that lead to positive careers in this emerging industry. Nearly every job in the future will be affected by climate change in some shape or form. 

Everyone must recognise a green future, though the specifics will depend on the industry. While some jobs could alter slightly with climate impacts, others could transform completely. Areas of the economy that cannot adapt to new realities may be entirely displaced, opening up discussions about new industries and retraining, especially for fossil-fuel-dependent communities. The future will likely bring a wave of new, never-imagined jobs that the younger generation needs to be prepared to fill. 

Many students are actively exploring more information about emerging career opportunities. Young people have been exposed to the impacts of climate change and recognise what impact this will have on their future career choices. Health insurance business Bupa discovered that over 60% of 18-22-year-olds consider it vital for their employers to focus on environmental issues, and 59% would stay longer with responsible businesses. 

While young people are genuinely interested in climate-related careers, they lack clarity on specific career pathways, especially if the guidance in earlier education is dated and not very climate-specific. There continues to be a mismatch between future careers and skills and training on offer for the youth of today. Sustainability must become more embedded as a statutory part of careers guidance in UK schools by 2025. The government must take more responsibility for driving this change and create more alignment with the needs, interests and skills related to green industry jobs.

There is a need for more climate action, and many young people actively want to participate in this space, yet people aren’t being matched efficiently to the jobs available. The LinkedIn Global Green Skills report released last year showed job posts requiring green skills were growing at 8% every year, outpacing the 6% growth in green talent.

As the next generation begins their careers, many are keen to contribute toward climate action. Whether they choose to change careers or explore environmentally-conscious employers, climate change is an inescapable part of the future of work. The job market will continue to adapt in response to these changes, particularly with rapidly changing environmental regulations and legislation. 

For many young people, an interest in renewables is something society can no longer ignore. Witnessing the impacts of climate change on our environment and daily lives must be recognised. Working for sustainability is a critical part of our future that many young people want to be a part of.

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