Net zero: Small steps with apprentices drive big changes

The daunting journey we have to undertake to get to net zero starts with small steps all apprentices and employers can take, explains Nina Royle

The daunting journey we have to undertake to get to net zero starts with small steps all apprentices and employers can take, explains Nina Royle

28 Nov 2022, 5:00

Green Skills? Low Carbon? Sustainability? Net zero?

We all know how we can make a positive impact on the environment, don’t we? I mean, when was the last time you printed out an email!? That’s another tree saved. Small steps can have a big impact on reducing our overall carbon footprint.

But of course, there are big changes to make, with big stakes at play. With ever increasing focus on the green agenda and the need to fix the planet for us and future generations, supporting our learners into sustainable jobs is high on our agenda.

Working across different boroughs in London and Kent, the Forward Trust Employment Services team is supporting participants returning to the job market, and one of our core activities is to help individuals to really understand what green skills are, and how they too can be involved and not feel left behind in this growing sector.

And through our work with some amazing employers and local authorities, we are looking at greener employment options for participants and developing a growing offer of good jobs with good progression as well as real solutions for sustainability.

But what does this really mean?

Personal responsibility

The first small step towards engagement with sustainability is always a personal one, so as part of their employability learning and readiness for job application and interview, we’re encouraging participants to reflect on what they can do to lower their own carbon footprint. Tutors use online tools with participants to measure their carbon impact and how they could potentially reduce this.

It’s a great discussion piece, but it also gets some positive thinking going around the current cost-of-living crisis. Any quick win to save energy and money is also a quick win for the environment.

We also encourage and support all our participants to make a green pledge while they are in the classroom. Getting them to commit to doing that ‘one thing’ to make a difference has seen them take the lead on a number of initiatives, including:

  • Reducing their need for single-use plastics, from water bottles to plastic-wrapped fruit
  • Reducing their dependence on fast fashion by recycling clothing and using online platforms to sell their unwanted items
  • Reducing water consumption at home and at work throughout the year (and not just to avoid a summer hosepipe ban)

Unsurprisingly perhaps, turning down the thermostat has never been such a hot topic of conversation (if you’ll excuse the pun).

The big picture

Having ‘green’ conversations with our participants has really increased awareness. It has also opened up opportunities they perhaps previously might not have been so aware of, or indeed have thought were not for them.

Working with different employers, we are preparing participants to better understand how sustainability is impacting job offer across different sectors, while promoting better progression opportunities and choice. These include diverse opportunities in sectors such as environmental charities, construction and the built environment, in-house environmental activities, production of renewable energy, and recycling, waste, wastewater and water quantity management.

And given the sustainability sector’s lack of diversity, we know that anything we can do to raise awareness, lift aspirations and include the marginalised members of our communities to join the sustainability movement can only be a good thing.

At the Forward Trust, we have developed flexible working arrangements with hybrid working patterns that work for the teams and the participants we support, and we encourage others to do the same. These can reduce carbon footprint, while making work more accessible to often-excluded groups.

Engaging with employers who are open to embracing the sustainability agenda broadens the scope and offer of job opportunities available to our participants. It’s a win-win situation: better employers, better jobs, with better opportunities having a positive impact on the environment and the lives of those we support.

These are small steps towards driving a an agenda of global importance. But the great thing about small steps is: they leave smaller footprints.

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