Careers explored – Green is the colour

As the UK strives to recover from the pandemic and with unemployment rising, there is the chance to create millions of new jobs which support the UK’s net-zero carbon targets.

Recently, the UK government announced its ambition to create more ‘green jobs’ and launched a Green Jobs Taskforce in a bid to alter the direction of the job market and implement a high-skill, low carbon economy.

These jobs tend to be focused on sustainability, ecology and the protection of the environment. As climate change and other ecological concerns are such pressing issues right now, a green job could really provide you with that ‘job satisfaction’ feeling.

In November 2020, the Prime Minister announced that £80 million will be going into the UK’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund – part of the government’s wider green economic recovery, jobs and skills package.

A wide range of projects are set to benefit from the funding, which include action towards the creation or restoration of priority habitats, preventing or cleaning up pollution, woodland creation, peatland and wetland restoration and actions to help people connect with nature. This will in turn create and retain a range of skilled and unskilled jobs, such as ecologists, project managers, tree planters and teams to carry out nature restoration.

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Educate spoke to Dr Tim Lane, senior lecturer in geography and programme leader for climate change at Liverpool John Moores University and also, the Educate Awards’ newest judge, to find why students should be looking at green jobs.

He explained: “The environmental sector is a growing part of the job market, and I believe the sector will continue to grow. Many aspects of society are realising the importance of the environment, and the growing requirements of businesses to be ‘green’ means that graduates in environmental degrees will become very desirable.

“Working in the environmental sector also provides, to me at least, a sense of purpose and actual feeling of contributing to make the world a better place. While it may only be in a small way, it should give a sense of satisfaction to those who really care about our environment, and making society a better place for all.”

The market place is vast and varied when it comes to jobs. Sectors can include agriculture and forestry, manufacturing, recycling, transport, renewable energy, wildlife conservation and many, many more.

Over the years, Tim has seen his students graduate and go into many different career directions.

He said: “We see our students going into a wide range of different careers after graduation, and have a very high employment rate after graduation. Recent graduates have gone into careers such as environmental consultants (at both transnational and local companies), town planners, air quality analysts, primary and secondary school teachers, and geographical information systems officers.”

The job of an air quality analyst is to measure, sample and analyse the data gathered from polluted air. After theorising or discovering the source of the pollutants, they work with other specialised scientists to develop future techniques for reducing or eradicating air pollution. Analysts play a vital role of controlling human pollution outputs to preserve the atmosphere and the air that we breathe.

Meanwhile, town planners are involved in the management and development of cities, towns, villages and the countryside. This role must balance the conflicting demands of housing, industrial development, agriculture, recreation, transport and the environment, in order to allow appropriate development to take place.

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But not all green jobs require a degree. Myerscough College, which has centres in Preston, Blackburn, Liverpool, Manchester and Warrington, offers a broad range of courses.

Head of greenspace at the college, Andy Taaffe, said: “Sportsturf, arboriculture, countryside management, horticulture, landscaping and garden design are hugely popular, especially so this year because of lockdown and ongoing restrictions. It’s a sector where skilled workers will always be required with boundless opportunities. Grass will always need to be cut, trees will always need to be maintained, the countryside will always need to managed.

“This makes for fantastic career opportunities across the greenspace sector. While many choose to study to degree level or beyond, the great thing about these types of careers is the practical nature of the skillset required means there are a wealth of highly paid jobs that only require qualifications at Levels 2 or 3, through either vocational study programmes or apprenticeships.”

He added: “There’s often a common misconception that these careers are for the ‘less academic’, when in reality it is the opposite. All programmes are underpinned by strong theory-based learning, that goes hand-in-hand with practical skills. A Level 3 vocational qualification or apprenticeship provides the same number of UCAS points as 3 good A-Levels, meaning a student going down this route not only has a high-level qualification and skills, but can carry on to degree level study later if they wished to do so.”

With the government’s recovery fund in place and the pandemic accounting for thousands of job losses, does Dr Tim Lane foresee a need for new green jobs to be created in response to this?

He said: “Potentially. I think the pandemic has highlighted the ability of governments to rapidly implement large-scale changes. It has also made people more aware of their local environments, and improved their understanding of their local environments. This will hopefully lead to more green jobs.

“However, regardless of the pandemic, I think more green jobs need to be created in order to deliver the UK’s targets of becoming carbon neutral.”

But it’s not just the pandemic that will affect jobs. Brexit will too. Andy Taaffe said: “Brexit could see huge challenges and opportunities in the UK for the greenspace sector. With so much uncertainty, the sector is arguably one area where opportunities will remain excellent. Skilled workers in these areas will help futureproof the UK from the economic impact that leaving the EU might bring in the months ahead. We anticipate an increase in demand for qualified workers, as many businesses in the sector bring activities ‘in house’ and therefore there isn’t a better time to entry the industry.”

Finally, are school’s CIAEG (careers information, advice and educational guidance) doing enough to promote green jobs? Andy doesn’t believe so. He added: “There are not enough people who know that this is such a great career. People at school are not aware that working outside is a really great living. It’s highly skilled, highly technical and uses a great range of personal attributes. It’s not just school leavers though. At any stage you can choose a career in greenspace. As the years go by, the sector will need people to plant millions of trees, to design the woodlands, to care for the land, whether you work perhaps for the local council, or in private practice.”

Uswitch recently discovered which are the best paid green roles in the UK. Searches for green courses have steadily increased over the last three years, with 98% more people searching for these courses in October 2020 than in October 2019, showing the appetite for green careers. 

Although not the be all and end all, salary is still crucial to think about when starting off on a new career path.  Here’s what you can expect to earn in the following fields:  

Best paid roles  Average salary 
Environmental Lawyer  £82,875 
Head of Sustainability  £63,105.25 
Renewable Energy Consultant  £52,000 
Hydrologist  £47,250 
Environmental Manager  £47170 
Sustainability Engineer  £46,250 
Climate Change Manager  £42,139.25 
Solar Installer  £41,500.25 
Carbon Analyst  £41,450 
Ecologist  £39,250 
Solar Electrician  £38,750 
Solar Design Engineer  £36,250 
Hydrographic Surveyor  £35,250 
Environmental Engineer  £34,500 
Environmental Consultant  £33,750 
Environmental Scientist  £30,250 
Sustainability Advisor  £30,250 

Will Owen, energy expert at said: “With the government’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, more jobs than ever are expected to be in the green sector.  

“The appetite for this is evident in our research showing how many people are looking for courses to set them on the path to a green career. 

“Wages can be high for the most experienced and highly educated individuals. However, not being just about money, those in the green sector can feel comfortable knowing that they’re doing their bit for the planet too.” 

With so many different pathways and career options available for every ability, Educate recommends watching this (green) space!

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