Here at Otesha, we have been doing quite a lot of work recently on the concept of Green Jobs, as we want to be able to hook up those unemployed young people in our area of East London with good, green and decent work. If it doesn’t sound easy, that’s because it isn’t.
The world of Green Jobs is a minefield, being a relatively new concept. Some people think a green job is manual labour in energy efficient industries – so stuff like insulating houses, installing solar panels and the like. Others think it is high-tech stuff, that can only be done by engineers and computer scientists. Others think it is much broader and could potentially include almost every job out there, so you could have a green teacher, or a green postman, or a green retail manager, because they had successfully made their roles more sustainable by changing the equipment, products or buildings they use or changing their modes of transport.
On top of all that, a lot of the rhetoric around green jobs out there has been around social justice issues, arguing that these jobs should be an opportunity to create pathways out of poverty for those who are chronically unemployed or underemployed, and provide career progression. We totally agree, but some people don’t! So as you can see, the conversation about green jobs at the moment is wide-ranging and sometimes confusing. Just what kind of a beast are we dealing with here?
More to the point, just where are they? Green jobs get talked about a lot in the media, and by politicians, but when we’re trying to find opportunities here for our volunteers in East London, sometimes they can feel a bit mythical (hence the unicorn). There aren’t many jobs out there for young people full stop, let alone green jobs, so if they aren’t there, how can we create them? It’s not as if the work of greening our economy doesn’t need to be done, and sharpish.
These are questions that we’ll be trying to answer over the next few months. We’re piloting our Gear Up programme with some fab young people who we’re helping to set up their own projects, or mentoring through internships at great organisations like Bikeworks and Hackney City Farm. We’re also getting our research on to map out opportunities in the area and hopefully kickstart some training and job creation. We hosted a really successful roundtable last week with lots of amazing organisations and council representatives to see how we can work together, so outcomes of that meeting and exciting developments will be posted here soon. Exciting!