Where’s the talent?

16th Oct 19 by Dan Woolley, Head of Pilot Programmes

Organisations working for a sustainable future have a responsibility to take the lead.

Of all the many lazy accusations levelled at young people, the last few months have exposed one of the least fair, and most enduring: that they’re disengaged and apathetic.

Young people – children, teenagers and young adults – have caught the adults of the climate and sustainability world by surprise with the tidal wave of action, passion and change that they have unleashed over the past year. Whether it’s a 13 year old taking their first Friday off school to strike for the climate, to the young woman I witnessed last Monday padlocking herself to some scaffolding in the rain to stop the police dismantling Extinction Rebellion’s Trafalgar Square protest. Thousands of young people have found their voice – or perhaps we’re learning to listen.

Yet despite all this activity, a young person who decides that they want to turn their passion and concern for our planet into a career faces a difficult path, especially if they don’t have a degree or come from a working class, black or ethnic minority background, or any community which is faces discrimination and barriers to entering the job market.

This is a sad irony, because right now, the environmental movement needs every voice – we need the voices of all ages and all backgrounds to face the crisis that is brewing, and the many different kinds of thinking and action that will be needed to overcome it, and to overcome it in a way which is just and doesn’t just replicate the injustices and discrimination of the past.

That’s why today, on World Food Day, we’re launching a new project called Eco Talent.

Through Eco Talent, we will be working with talented young people who are passionate about the environment and want to make a difference, but currently feel that working in the environmental sector is inaccessible to them because of their background or life experiences. Simultaneously, we are forming partnerships with host organisations who wish to benefit from the energy, enthusiasm and talent that young people can bring, and from the new voices and fresh perspectives they offer. And because so often the obvious route into the environmental sector is through unpaid volunteering which is inaccessible to most young people, we are connecting these young people and organisations through creating a range of quality internships to be paid at the Living Wage.

Internships will have either a practical or campaigning focus. Practical placements will include host organisations such as community kitchens, farms, and other growing projects – an opportunity to learn about the food system and its effect on the environment as well as the practical skills of how to provide the food of and for the future. Campaigning placements will work with campaigning organisations to push for changes in the food system which will secure sustainable food production for now and future generations.

We recognise that Eco Talent is limited in the number of young people and organisations who can directly take part in, and benefit from, the project. But our long-term vision goes beyond the immediate participants: through demonstrating alternative and fairer approaches to recruitment, and through evidencing the effectiveness of a more diverse workforce in the professional environmental sector, we hope to inspire widespread change – a change that is at once necessary, long overdue and essential in the fight against climate change.

You can find out more about Eco Talent here.


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