STEM Matters: Generation Green ambitions at risk of going to ‘waste’

Author : Mark Gradwell | Editor | EPDT

02 October 2020

IET Generation Green_with Lindsey Russell_580x280
IET Generation Green_with Lindsey Russell_580x280

Recent research has found that over two-thirds of children aged 5-13 hope to follow a career that helps the environment, but that a lack of understanding about these jobs could stop them from getting there.

This column was originally featured in the October 2020 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.

After the Government recently announced a £40million investment to unlock thousands of ‘green jobs’, the Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET), who commissioned the research, warned that without a better understanding of eco-friendly careers, children may follow other routes...

The IET’s Engineer a Better World campaign works to inspire the next generation of engineers by encouraging young people and their parents to nurture their curiosity and think differently about careers in engineering. As part of the campaign, the IET recently commisioned new research into children’s and parent’s understanding of green jobs. The study was conducted by market research firm, 3Gem in August 2020, surveying 1,000 children between the ages of 5-13 years old and 1,000 parents of children between 5-13 years old. Based on the findings, the IET has launched a new content series to help explain what green jobs are and what they entail.

Encouragingly, the research found that over two thirds of children (68%) aged 5-13 hope to work in a ‘green job’ that helps the environment. But worryingly, the majority of kids say a lack of knowledge about these careers could prevent them from following their passion. Indeed, 7 in 10 kids (71%) feel this knowledge gap is the biggest barrier to pursuing their dream career, and a third of parents (33%) cannot give an example of a sustainability-related profession to guide their children.

The research also found that making a positive difference (55%) is a bigger influence on kids’ career choices than ‘money’ (31%) or ‘fame’ (7%), but it highlights the need to maintain children’s passion for saving the planet to ensure a strong pipeline of future talent. 6 in 10 six-year-olds (59%) listed ‘making a positive difference’ as the biggest influence, but the number drops to 50% by age 13, while ‘earning as much money as possible’ rises from 26% to 38% in the same age groups.

Mark Gradwell, Editor, EPDT
Mark Gradwell, Editor, EPDT

70% of kids claim to do at least three environmentally friendly things every day, such as recycling or choosing a green method of transport (such as walking, cycling or public transport). Nearly two-thirds of children (64%) believe saving the planet from climate change to be the world’s number one priority, compared to just 57% of adults. But demonstrating the need for more action, both groups agree that environmental efforts have dwindled in the shadow of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic – with 71% of parents and 77% of children feeling sustainability has taken a back seat over the past six months.

To help harness kids’ environmental passion, the IET has created a content series fronted by Blue Peter presenter, Lindsey Russell to help young people understand more about STEM-based green jobs and what they involve. The series looks at a range of different green jobs in the field of engineering: what they are and what they entail. In the videos, TV presenter, Lindsey Russell talks to people whose jobs help save the planet and minimise humanity’s impact on the environment, to better understand what they do and why their work is so important.

Climate change is one of the biggest issues we face as a generation and it’s an extremely important time for us to take action, so I’m honoured to be able to work with the IET on this campaign,Lindsey Russell said. “I’ve spoken to some incredibly talented people and hopefully, the video series helps inform kids about the options they have to turn their passion into a career and help save the planet.

In the video series, Lindsey talks to an aerospace engineer who has worked on hybrid-electric aircraft for sustainable air transport, an oceanographer working on ocean clean-ups and a power systems engineer who helps utility companies to try and achieve their Net Zero ambitions.

In addition to the video content series, the IET also offers five top tips for parents to help nurture their children’s interest in the environment and a list of possible ‘green jobs’ in the world of STEM:

•    Get involved in community projects, such as allotments, local litter collections and beach clean-ups

•    Get stuck into activities at home, such as composting food waste, growing flowers or plants

•    Lead by example when it comes to eco-friendly habits such as recycling, taking eco-friendly transport and conserving energy where possible

•    Learn together and don’t be embarrassed  if your children know more about the environment than you do!

•    Have open conversations about preserving the planet, your children’s worries and what you can do help make the world a better place

Top green jobs in STEM for kids to pursue include: oceanographer; environmental engineer; forest & conservation technician; geoscientist; soil & plant scientists; clean car engineer; natural scientist; wave energy producers; wind energy workers/technicians; green architect/designer; hydrologist; conservation scientist; ocean/earth scientist.

Dr Peter Bonfield, President at the IET said: “It’s clear that children have a real enthusiasm to help the environment, but both young people and their parents need guidance in order to be able to turn their passion into future careers. Engineering and technology-related sectors are at the forefront of providing sustainability-related solutions, and we hope that this series helps explain to children the ways in which they can help tackle these issues.

To view the series and find out more about sustainability careers, visit

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