Comment: Inspiring young people to be climate heroes

PICTURE ALT TEXT HEREDr Hilary Leevers, EngineeringUK CEO, shares young people’s ideas on achieving net zero and asks for your help in encouraging them into engineering.

This month we see Glasgow host the UN Climate Change Conference COP26. It is a widely anticipated event that has seen a plethora of media coverage and organisations from across the globe using it as an opportunity to discuss their plans as to how we can achieve net zero and a more sustainable, greener future by 2050. It brings climate change back to the top of the agenda for many following the truly turbulent time of the pandemic.

For me, the focus has to be on the next and future generations and the world that they will be living in. Engineers will be at the heart of shaping this world and I know that they are already working to come up with workable solutions addressing the range of problems, such as how to generate affordable and sustainable energy, predict and prepare for extreme weather events and ready our cities for the future.

It is vital that we convey to young people the range of creative, problem solving and exciting engineering roles that they could occupy, contributing to achieving net zero and a greener world. They need to see their opportunity to help solve our biggest global challenges and have a seat at the table of prioritising work to address their greatest concerns.

young people

This week is Tomorrow’s Engineers Week – an annual celebration of all engineers that aims to inspire young people. Our theme is around net zero and earlier this month we hosted a Schools COP Summit to provide young people with a voice in the climate change conversation and asking them to think about how engineers can help.

At the Summit, we heard from 70 students from 30 schools across the UK about what they feel they can do as young people, how they can make changes to their own behaviours and what was most concerning for them. As well as the all-important conversation as to how engineering, science and innovation can help achieve net zero.

Comment: Get involved and inspire all young engineers

The passion and enthusiasm to achieve change was remarkable.

There were so many ideas that came through. Some converged with technologies currently being explored, such as ocean fertilisation to improve carbon capture by marine plants. Others I don’t think are under development, but I enjoyed thinking through how they might work and this sort of thinking might seed fruitful innovations, such as the idea of self-sufficient agri-biomes for farmed animals to capture methane for as an energy source. Other ideas included investment in new energy sources to improve new buildings and retrofit older ones, and planting more trees to increase biodiversity.

As well as engineering the future, there are ways that you can help. It was heartening that young people said they love to hear directly from engineers – so if you get the opportunity to share your passion for engineering with them, please do. You could inspire a young person that hadn’t considered engineering as a career or be the role model that leads to a solution for net zero. If you haven’t had an opportunity to speak to students before then remember there are a whole host of resources on the Tomorrow’s Engineers website that mean you never have to start from scratch. The latest careers resource is a PowerPoint presentation that was developed by the Tomorrow’s Engineers careers working group. It explores engineering sectors that are expected to flourish in the future – from big data and life sciences to agricultural technologies and low carbon economy – and profiles different engineers, skills required and routes into engineering. The presentation can be used by anyone wanting to inspire and inform young people about a career in engineering and can be adapted to suit the needs of the presenter and audience.

We are celebrating all those engineers and technicians that are already making excellent progress in combatting climate change and if you are one of them, please do shout about your work as a Net Zero Hero. I really do believe we need to increase the visibility of all engineers and technicians, especially highlighting the opportunity for people from all backgrounds to succeed in these valuable careers.

Please also share links to Tomorrow’s Engineers Week and the Schools COP Summit that will be broadcast online on Monday 8 November with any schools or young people in your networks.

Let’s give engineering the recognition it deserves and get young people inspired to become part of the workforce at the heart of reaching the global goal of net zero by 2050.