Apprenticeships key to unlocking Gen Z’s green potential
Careers advisers and social media influencers promoting apprenticeships to Gen Z could help provide the green workers the UK needs to meet net zero, according to new research published today during Green Careers Week.
The UK will need 60,000 people installing solar panels and in related industries by the mid-2030s, and need 50,000 heat pump engineers by the same time, in order to progress towards net zero. A huge influx of 15-25-year-olds is required to enter the green workforce to meet that need, according to the MCS Foundation, a net zero charity which commissioned the report from market research agency Savanta.
The report assesses whether young people are currently considering green career options, and found that while concern about climate change was high among Gen Z, only 15% considered benefitting the environment as an important factor in their career choice. That compares to 60% prioritising a job that they enjoy and that is well-paid. However, 57% of young people also said that they would be more likely to consider a renewable energy job if they knew that they could get an apprenticeship where they could earn and learn at the same time. The research also showed that 55% percent of young people said that they would consider a renewable energy job if there was more information about the options in their school, college or university.
These findings highlight the lack of awareness of apprenticeships, and the fact that university, not an apprenticeship, is seen as the default aspirational path for school leavers This is now holding back the country from accessing the green potential of Gen Z. One participant in the research said “There’s been a lot of support in my school for universities, but not with apprenticeships. For apprenticeships, I don’t know as much as I should.”
The benefits of accessing an apprenticeship to help deliver on the green transition is seen in the case of Max Davy, 25, from Norwich. Max, who now installs solar panels and batteries across Norfolk, began a Level 3 Electro Technical Technology apprenticeship when he was 19, after two years at college, which he decided wasn’t for him. Max said: “I wanted a trade, and it came down to making a choice as to which sector to go into. Green energy has been very apparent for the last five-ten years, and I knew that getting a job in this sector would give me security and job for life.
“My apprenticeship gave me a foot in the door. Even though it was challenging at times, I gained a passion for renewable energy and an understanding of what powers our daily lives, and how to make that power more efficient.
“I would say there is generally a shortage of installers, and we need apprenticeships to help fill that gap. You’re not really pushed at school to consider apprenticeships, and it’s still considered that university is the only choice. But my friends who went to university and got good degrees are now back where I was five years ago, while I have a good secure job with an entry into the real world.
“With the hundreds of solar panel and battery systems I’ve installed over the last five years I would say I’ve cut a lot out of the carbon footprint.”
To harness the potential of apprenticeships, the MCS Foundation is recommending that apprenticeships be promoted via channels that young people are already accessing for information about next steps in their career pathways. This includes school, college and university careers advice, social media, and via friends and family. It should also cover information about the range of apprenticeships available, including in vital office-based roles such as project management, as well as those developing engineering or technical skills.
Richard Hauxwell-Baldwin, Research and Campaigns Manager at the MCS Foundation and author of the report, said, “For young people who want to do their bit for the environment but don’t see a ‘green job’ as an option, apprenticeships could open doors in a big way.
“We will need more than a hundred thousand more solar panel and heat pump installers in the next decade, and apprenticeships are a vital link in to accessing the skills and capabilities of Gen Z to meet that need.
“We need to move beyond a system where university is seen as the only path for aspirational school leavers, and demonstrate that apprenticeships can provide job and learning opportunities for young people that are enjoyable, earn good money, and deliver on their environmental values.”
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Notes to editors
The report is based on research commissioned from Savanta by the MCS Foundation, and is available here.
Solar Energy UK estimate that the UK will need up to 60,000 people working in the solar industry by the mid-2030s: https://solarenergyuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/Be-part-of-a-brighter-future-E-Booklet.pdf
The Heat Pump Association suggest the number of heating engineers required by 2035 will be 50,000: https://www.heatpumps.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/A-Roadmap-for-the-Role-of-Heat-Pumps.pdf
About the MCS Foundation
The MCS Foundation’s mission is to decarbonise homes, heat and energy. We were founded to oversee the MCS standards scheme which certifies the quality of renewable energy across UK homes. In addition, we support and develop programmes to address critical issues like retrofitting UK homes at scale, expanding the skills-base the sector needs, and commissioning independent research that informs and shapes better decision making to drive a carbon free future for all UK homes. For more information: https://www.mcscharitablefoundation.org/