As lockdown eases, we can start to see the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic is having on local businesses. Some are slowly starting to get back to normal, while others are still struggling and for some the doors have unfortunately closed for good. That means unemployment levels are rising and job prospects in the short-term are uncertain, which for those awaiting GCSE and A-level results in just a few weeks’ time is not good news.
The Covid-19 experience has shown us how vulnerable our economy is to a global event on this scale and we must do all we can to avoid the even greater threat that climate change poses to our livelihoods. As we begin to repair the damage done to our economy, we have the opportunity to implement the changes needed to stop climate change and secure employment prospects for future generations.
The employment rate for the District is above the national average at 86%, with proportionally higher than average numbers working in the wholesale and retail sector; accommodation and food services; human health and social work and in professional, scientific and technical activities.
There are over 9,000 businesses employing more than 72,000 people, with 86% of these having between 1-9 employees but larger companies like Harrogate Spring Water, Covance Laboratories, Bettys & Taylors, TSYS, Econ Engineering and ilke Homes, have thrived in recent years.
So how will the development of a new green economy affect employment opportunities in these businesses and what new career paths can we expect?
Imagine a future, in ten years’ time, where all our energy comes from local renewable sources; where we need to travel less to our places of work; where the efficient public transport system reduces the need for cars and where cars are needed they use renewable fuel sources; where much of our food comes from local producers and our land is managed effectively to provide for the needs of agriculture, biodiversity and human wellbeing.
This vision can be achieved now, we have the capability, it just needs insightful leadership, committed management, financial investment and of course the skilled workforce to make it happen.
Many companies have already accepted that climate change is a threat to their businesses and investors are recognising the need to move away from those businesses who don’t put in place sustainable strategies.
Carbon literacy and sustainability will have to become a key part of any job, whether working in a call centre, a hospital, retail or engineering. Existing job roles will need to take on new responsibilities and integrate new skills.
In many sectors, there will be new roles and reskilling, for example in agroforestry, biodiversity, land management, food production, construction and energy management.
Careers paths will remain in all the traditional areas, supplemented by a growth in demand for those with specific environmental skills but it is the responsibility of our schools, colleges and universities to ensure the education and training required are being provided, by embedding them into their main stream curriculums, not just offered as optional or elective choices.
Our actions now to establish a strong carbon neutral economy will help to ensure that those students waiting for their GCSE and A-level results in 2030 will have an even wider choice of career paths open to them, rather than being faced with the prospect of long-term unemployment, in a society struggling to come to terms with the worst impacts of climate change.
Ask a young person, about to leave school, what they would like to do as a career and most will say, ‘I’m not sure’. Ask if they would like a career which cares for the planet and they are likely to say yes.