One ‘commodity’ it is very easy to overlook during a hectic business recovery is our colleagues. I would like to make a really strong case for investing heavily in developing the skills of all staff members in the middle of a serious economic crisis – but particularly those of young people.
In fact, it is because we are in unprecedented times that I think we have a duty as today’s leaders to help everyone prepare for even more daunting problems ahead if the future gets really tough.
And to me, that means continuously upgrading the professional expertise and practical know-how needed to meet challenges in our lifetime, plus those future generations will almost certainly face.
Excellent people past, present and future
The good news is that Enzygo (https://www.enzygo.com/) currently has five excellent trainees at our northern Stocksbridge office … and a proud track-record that I want to improve still further for young people working in all three offices of our UK environmental consultancy.
Some have already gone on to develop their own long-term careers with us. But we are also delighted to help others move into further responsible employment and community roles.
To coincide with National Apprentice Week 2022 (7th to 13th February) I thought it would be useful to share some of our experiences to help other organisations help their own young people. As ever, I’m happy to discuss the issues below if you would like to contact me (email@example.com).
Green job skills needed urgently across the economy
We obviously work in the modern environmental industries. However, we are not the only sector that needs well-qualified staff.
Several studies published in early in 2022 note that the UK economy urgently needs to create new and upgraded ‘green’ jobs across all employee groups and age ranges.
Later, I will touch on this wider problem. However, before that I would like to show briefly what we have been able to achieve in house at Enzygo, and how we have made schemes work for us.
A good start from Kickstart
We have taken part in various employment and training programmes in recent years, but most recently the Government’s Kickstart Scheme.
This unfortunately ends in March 2022. At present, no follow-up schemes seems to be in the pipeline. Which is a shame and I hope that rumours of successor prove to be true.
Whatever the future brings, I am extremely impressed with the people who have joined us for short periods that I am planning to introduce more trainees to our offices in Stocksbridge, Bristol and Manchester.
Valued Enzygo assets
The advantage of Kickstart was that it has allowed us to take on several high-calibre graduates selected carefully with the help of Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce.
Fraser McCarter joined us in March 2021 as a Graduate Environmental Consultant and is now a fulltime Assistant Environmental Consultant. His experience is perhaps most directly relevant to what we do as an independent multi-disciplinary consultancy.
Chloe Armitage also joined us as an apprentice and has recently been promoted to Assistant Administrator following her completion of Level 3 in Business Administration.
Lucy Cowley took an earlier Business Administration Apprenticeship route which requires a strong sense of responsibility, confidentiality, accuracy and attention to detail. She was highly commended for the Barnsley and Rotherham Business Awards in 2017 and now uses her organisational skills as a Project Support Officer.
Rapidly gained experience
I think Fraser’s work portfolio over a relatively short time shows just how useful the Kickstart placement has been both for him and for the company.
Since joining us in-house, he has collated and interpreted the data needed to complete flood risk assessment, Phase 1 technical reports, land and visual impact assessments and pre-planning enquiries.
Out of the office, he has traced drainage pathways on client sites, installed water level monitoring probes and inspected flood resilience measures. As he notes himself, the discipline of taking detailed notes and providing daily updates for several different projects at once has been a good grounding.
Back to a very different future
It is important to put skills development into perspective. We were the future once – and with low-mileage on our biological clocks still hopefully have a long way to go!
However, times change quickly and it is easy to be fooled into thinking that the sophisticated skills and advanced technologies we have at our finger tips today are at the apex of the state-of-the-art.
That is unlikely to be true. Trainees and apprentices at the start of their working lives today will almost certainly have learned far more by the end of their long careers than we will in ours!
Judging by the problems the world is now storing up for itself, by the time today’s young people retire they will have resolved humongous issues and hopefully prevented disasters that we are only now just beginning to recognise.
That is why I believe we have a duty now to help young people make their own futures viable in their own way, even if their ethics, visions, analysis and conclusions eventually differ from our own.
Who knows, they may be far better than us!
Why young people?
From a company perspective, skills development fits well into wider CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiatives and can say much to prospective clients about an organisation’s culture, principles and commitment.
However, young people with their advanced IT skills are also tomorrow’s potential leaders and pacemakers.
As the international business consultancy McKinsey notes, “People are the fuel that will power the next industrial revolution”. And that may even change what it means to be human!
They will live through the Fourth Industrial Revolution as it blurs boundaries between the physical, digital, and biological world with artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), genetic engineering, quantum computing, and technologies not yet even thought of (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/what-is-the-fourth-industrial-revolution/).
The First Industrial Revolution broke our reliance on animals, human effort and basic fossil fuels. The second saw innovations like electrical networks, radio and ‘wired’ communication. The third kick-started computers, digital systems, new forms of energy, and the ‘modern’ information age.
Kickstart and other programmes
That is for the future. I promised more details on the schemes that we are using at present or have used successfully in the past.
The Kickstart Scheme has worked well for us because its six-month duration is enough for us to give selected candidates a wide enough foundation to achieve something useful and get a good idea of what professional environmental consultancy services means.
Launched in September 2020 to help 16 to 24-year-olds facing long-term unemployment, it covers 100% of the National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week over half a year.
We have also participated and benefited from the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub, providing training to our employees across a range of skills. During 2022 we have enrolled all of our management team on one of their Management Training courses, further demonstrating our belief in growing in-house talent.
Fortunately, the breadth of our work across all types of developments – from major infrastructure projects to residential housing schemes and advanced renewable energy programmes – guarantees trainees a wide exposure to many diverse experiences.
They work closely during their placements with different members of our 57-person-strong multidisciplinary environmental consultancy team on sites across the UK.
As planning and permitting application experts, we specialise in geo-environmental investigations; noise/vibration studies; transport; planning applications; arboriculture (trees); and the growing importance of air quality services (https://www.enzygo.com/our-services/).
To maintain our high standards, a continuous pipeline of motivated and skilled personnel is clearly very important to us.
Call for new green skills across the board
However, closing the skills gaps across the UK’s whole industrial base is essential to reach our legally binding net-zero emission target by 2050 – and effectively end the fossil-fuel era in the next 28 years!
A new Green Alliance think-tank report published on 12th January 2022 (‘Closing the UK’s
green skills gap’ – https://green-alliance.org.uk/resources/Closing_the_UK_green_skills_gap.pdf) asks the Government to set up a new green skills programme specifically to meet net-zero.
Green skills for everyone are vital, it says; but 80% of our 2030 workforce are already at work. Many urgently need retraining or reskilling for the good of the economy and their own work longevity.
The report adds that net-zero will bring ‘huge job opportunities for the UK’. But to meet the Prime Minister’s vison of a ‘high-wage, high-skills’ economy, a green workforce is essential. Without a proper programme to create this, the UK could be outpaced by other countries.
Its other recommendations include a ‘green skills deduction’ tax relief scheme’ to help businesses provide their staff with green job training that would match the super deduction policy for manufacturing announced in the spring 2021 budget (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/967202/Super_deduction_factsheet.pdf). Loans and grants to train and retrain employees and embed green skills in ‘in-work’ education are also needed, it says.
Making all jobs green?
The Government’s Green Jobs Taskforce (https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/green-jobs-taskforce#green-jobs-taskforce-report) goes further and says that all UK jobs could be ‘green jobs’ if the Government ‘simplifies and clarifies’ the road to net-zero 2050. It must also invest in green technology while building a robust skills pipeline.
It could be better still, according to the ‘Qualify for the race to net-zero’ report (https://www.ukonward.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Qualifying-for-the-race-to-net-zero-FINAL.pdf) released by the centre right think-tank Onward (https://www.ukonward.com/).
This study suggests that new green net-zero jobs could pay 18% more than the UK’s national average salary – which is 30% higher than average salaries in high-emitting sectors. It outlines how 3.2 million workers could ‘broaden their skills’, with specific references to construction and transport.
Going yet further, the ONS (Office for National Statistics – https://www.ons.gov.uk/) predicts that more than 800,000 UK jobs lost during the pandemic could be replaced by new green jobs if government and private investment is mobilised correctly.
Dizzy stuff perhaps. But every journey begins with a first step and making a start in our own offices is a good start.
If you would like to know more about how we work successfully with our team of experts, and young people in particular, please feel free to contact me directly.
Matt Travis, Company Director, Enzygo Ltd.