How colleges can help students attain the green roles they want

Students want sustainable jobs and construction can offer them but more work needs to be done to bring supply and demand together

Students want sustainable jobs and construction can offer them but more work needs to be done to bring supply and demand together

6 Apr 2024, 5:00

Demand for careers focused on sustainability is accelerating in line with the growth of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investment and increasing pressure to hit net zero targets.

In construction, many suppliers are moving to improve the sustainability of their operations and products to meet their own and their clients’ environmental commitments. As such, the number of ‘green roles’ in the industry is rising and creating an opportunity for FE providers to encourage more young people to pursue a sustainable path.  

Research has shown that 54 per cent of people interested in green careers are motivated by a desire to help the environment; a further 47 per cent report the demand for these jobs as a key driver while 45 per cent say they want an occupation they can take pride in.

Increasingly, opportunities to satisfy this appetite for green jobs are opening up. The UK’s net zero target could provide up to 750,000 new jobs in low-carbon sectors and in construction. Additional decarbonisation work could create demand for 86,000 project managers and 33,000 building envelope specialists by 2028, according to estimates from The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).  

Among the key areas driving sustainability in construction are procurement and estimation. Procurement professionals oversee resource investment and can steer a company’s uptake of sustainably sourced materials. This involves assessing the entire lifecycle of products and choosing materials that have lower embodied carbon and can be reused.

Procurement specialists work hand-in-hand with estimators to weigh up the cost of sustainable investment. They, in turn, collaborate with design experts such as computer-aided design (CAD) technicians to map out the feasibility of eco-friendly designs.  

Green duties have become entrenched in other occupations across the building sector too. Companies are setting annual targets as part of their ESG agendas. These include goals to manage waste efficiently or, in the case of projects built through modern methods of construction (MMC), developing zero-carbon-in-operation buildings.  

Early insight could be the ticket to harvesting a green job

With so many green career opportunities in construction on the table, FE providers have a key role to play in encouraging uptake among young people.

First, providers should ensure teaching about green skills and career paths is introduced to every curriculum area, and staff training on these is up-to-date. While demand for green occupations and employers is growing (over half of Gen Zs and Millennials research a company’s environmental impact before accepting jobs),  there is still little awareness of the job options and skills required to secure them. Dedicated workshops and careers education for sustainable employment pathways can help bridge that gap.  

Second, role models really matter. Many green jobs are relatively new, but there are professionals all over the country who have pursued green careers in construction. These include ESG directors, modular building designers and energy engineers who can discuss their experience and route to the role. Consider speakers with different educational backgrounds too; this will demonstrate that green careers are attainable through apprenticeships, vocational courses and other avenues.  

Third, formalised work experience reaches those who already show an interest in a sector, but they miss all those undecided young people who may simply not know what’s available. Many of these may be glad of a steer towards green construction careers. FE providers often have excellent relationships with local or regional companies who not only open up opportunities for young people but will also welcome the chance to promote their activity and vacancies.  

Finally, when applying for green careers with construction companies, FE providers must ensure young people can confidently discuss ESG. Recruitment has evolved into a two-way street: while employers have a greater duty to demonstrate their ESG credentials and perks, prospective employees for green roles will need to illustrate an interest in sustainability, their knowledge of the employer’s environmental credibility and their ideas for improvements they could bring to the given role. 

ESG and sustainability are now a priority for most sectors as well as society as a whole. Green careers are ripe for the taking – and early insight could be the ticket to harvesting one.  

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