Supporting an inclusive transition to a green economy
As the COP27 summit continues in Egypt, an innovative new programme in the UK is providing Black and minority ethnic young people with the skills and contacts needed to thrive in the green economy. Jessica Tomico and Xavier Baker explain how it works.
COP27’s themes of adaptation, finance, renewable energy, net zero, loss and damage, and biodiversity provide a historic opportunity to rethink how we approach a global transition to a more inclusive green economy.
While the summit spotlights international discussions, important work is also taking place closer to home. Green Skills for Jobs and Entrepreneurship is a unique and transformational programme from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) in partnership with racial justice organisation Black South-West Network and NatWest, and funded by the West of England Combined Authority. It provides access to jobs, training and business opportunities to young people from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds in the West of England region.
The programme was launched in February in response to the need for economic recovery following the pandemic and the government’s Ten Point Plan to build a green industrial revolution, with a pledge to create 250,000 new green jobs by 2030. Its key objectives are to support a just and inclusive transition to a green economy, close the skills gap between job opportunities and young people, and tackle the underrepresentation of people from minority ethnic backgrounds in environmental careers, recognising that the sector is the second least diverse in the UK.
The programme is designed to equip Black and minority ethnic young people with the skills, knowledge, insights and industry contacts needed to pursue careers in the growing sustainability sector.
Championing green and inclusive economic dynamism
Since its launch earlier this year, Green Skills has supported 90 young people, enabling them to access an inclusive, equitable and decolonised skills curriculum delivered over eight days of paid training.
The course’s content is underpinned by racial and social justice pillars, addressing structural barriers and how these contribute to the exclusion of communities of colour from the mainstream sustainability sector. It explores how environmental racism intersects with issues such as housing, transport, health and poverty. Consultants from industry, enterprise and community development – the majority of whom are Black or Brown – bring insight and expertise from their fields. This ensures representation in the sector is prioritised and that an intergenerational network of environmentalists of colour is part of the programme’s legacy. ‘It was insightful to learn about the work these wonderful people were doing, and it helped me understand the necessity of people like me who come from diverse backgrounds to contribute in this sector,’ said one course participant.
Green Skills also provides participants with the opportunity to embed their knowledge and refine the skills they have developed through access to: a fully funded internship with a local business or third sector organisation; a fully funded research internship; funding to cover industry training or further learning; or green tech or social enterprise incubation, which aims to provide start-ups with support to put business and social impact ideas into action.
Echoing recommendations from Greenpeace and the Runnymede Trust’s July report, Confronting Injustice: Racism and the Environmental Emergency, the programme seeks to make environmental and regional economic inclusion a cornerstone, recognising that both are vital for a just and inclusive transition to a greener economy.
Through business and social enterprise incubation support, innovation by local communities and members of ethnic minority groups is championed, recognising that ethnic minority-owned businesses are key drivers of UK economic buoyancy, innovation and export (as highlighted in the Federation of Small Business’ 2020 report Unlocking Opportunity: The Value of Ethnic Minority Firms to UK Economic Activity and Enterprise).
The design of the Green Skills course builds on the report’s recommendations through the provision of support for minority ethnic-led businesses that are looking to innovate, the signposting of access to external finance, and the facilitation of peer and professional networks for young Black and minority ethnic entrepreneurs.
A skills-based approach
Green skills are the building blocks we need to meet global net zero ambitions. They must permeate every industry and sector of the economy to stimulate innovation and mobilise the workforce transition needed to address the threats of climate change. Collective action requires equitable civic and economic inclusion of Black and minority ethnic communities.
As heads of state, ministers, mayors, activists and civil society representatives meet at COP27 in Egypt to review and agree urgent, concerted and unified action, the need for a more inclusive and equitable green transition has never been greater.
To learn more about the Green Skills for Jobs and Entrepreneurship programme email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jessica Tomico is a senior business development manager and project lead for the programme. Xavier Baker works as a mentor and cohort manager on the programme.