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Research by Friends of the Earth has revealed that creating 250,000 green apprenticeships leading to jobs including renewable energy, woodland creation, and peatland restoration, would help address the crises in youth unemployment, that could cost the country £39 billion, and climate breakdown.

Released ahead of the Chancellor’s spring Budget, the report “An emergency plan on green jobs for young people – why and how?”, by Transition Economics for Friends of the Earth, lays bare the scarring economic impact of youth unemployment from Covid-19 on individuals, local authorities, and the overall country. But the research also shows the huge potential for fighting the climate crisis with green jobs country-wide if apprenticeships are given proper government support.

The report, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, shows that:

  • The collective scarring impact of youth unemployment during the pandemic could see up to £39 billion lost wages in England and Wales over the following 20 years, if all young people currently unemployed remain jobless for a year.
  • The Combined Authority and Metro Mayor areas with the greatest opportunities for green apprenticeship creation over three years are:
    • London – 44,220
    • West Midlands – 19,430
    • Greater Manchester – 14,140
    • West Yorkshire – 11,750
    • Sheffield City Region – 6,400
  • The local authorities with the greatest potential for green apprenticeship creation over three years are:
    • Birmingham 9,080
    • Leeds – 4,030
    • Bradford – 3,420
    • Manchester – 3,420
    • Liverpool – 2,780

Recommendations to deliver these green apprenticeships include up to £10.6 billion of government funding towards wage subsidies, training, and diversity measures, as well as creating a network of National and Regional Centres of Excellence for Zero Carbon Skills at further education colleges.
The report also lays out the need for bursaries of £1,500 to promote participation in green apprenticeships among disadvantaged groups including Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities, women, and disabled people.

Denis Fernando, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "There’s a serious risk that this country is going to leave its young people to a future devastated by the climate crisis and unemployment. But it’s not too late to turn this around. Investing in green apprenticeships in areas such as renewable energy and woodland creation could prevent a new wave of youth unemployment, while helping the UK towards a more climate-friendly future."
Laura Chow, head of charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said: "This research is a stark reminder that the steps we take now to tackle climate change can also introduce opportunities for young people. Players of People’s Postcode Lottery have supported this research as part of our Postcode Climate Challenge initiative, which is supporting 12 charities with an additional £24 million for projects tackling climate change this year. Ending youth unemployment while fighting climate change offers a worthwhile solution to tackling two of the key issues we face."
Bridie Salmon, 22 from Lincolnshire, is studying for a Level 3 BTEC National in Engineering through Orsted, a Danish renewable energy company. They said: "When I was at school, green jobs and apprenticeships just weren’t mentioned, and I didn’t know that apprenticeships were so accessible, beneficial and available. Schools should promote more options and make sure green jobs are promoted.
"The biggest thing the government can do is to increase awareness and provide grants. Most apprenticeships offer half of the minimum wage. The government should offer grants to support companies to offer minimum wage for apprenticeships. They also need to advocate for green jobs."
Eishar Bassan, 23, is a Graduate Support Engineer at Siemen’s Gamesa – a renewable energy company. They said: "Schools should help students who have an interest and/or aptitude to choose the relevant GCSE and A-Level subjects. I believe there is a responsibility for industries to go into schools and promote the opportunities, using female role models if possible. If you only see men in the engineering roles, you can’t imagine it’s for you. You struggle to be what you can’t see."
Serena Murdoch, 17, Campaigner at Teach the Future – a youth-led campaign calling for better climate education, said: "As young people we are faced with an impending double crisis. We will have to deal with the disproportionate economic fallout from Covid-19, and begin our adult lives in an age of greater and greater climate injustice. Over recent years students have shown the world we have the energy and determination to rise to the climate emergency, but we can’t do it alone. This report gives politicians some concrete steps to begin providing good green jobs for the next generation of workers, and to unleash our energy to help build a safer, fairer future."
Paul Nowak, Deputy General Secretary at TUC, said: "Young people have borne the brunt of the job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and we need an urgent plan to make sure this experience doesn't scar their future. We know that investment in the skills required to get Britain to net zero, and in the good green jobs that will deliver it, could provide the opportunities young people desperately need now. This report is an important contribution to making that happen - and we look forward to working with everyone committed to ensuring that we deliver a better future both for young people and for the planet."

Further findings from the report:

  • An 18–20-year-old who experiences one year of unemployment during the pandemic crisis could lose out on £70,000 - £134,000 in wages over the next 20 years, as a result of lower future pay.
  • The estimated 27 thousand unemployed young people in Wales could lose between £1.1 billion - £1.4 billion in future wages over 20 years.
  • On a Combined Authority and Metro Mayor level, the greatest estimated collective scarring impacts fall on West Midlands (£3.6 billion), Greater Manchester (£2.6 billion) and London (£10.5 billion), corresponding to the greatest numbers of unemployed young people.
  • The local authorities with the worst potential scarring impact, proportionate to their adult populations are:
    • Birmingham - £1.1 billion
    • Croydon - £380 million
    • Lewisham - £357 million
    • Lambeth - £345 million
    • Southwark - £321 million
    • Derby - £252 million
    • Haringey - £245 million
    • Islington - £233 million
    • Waltham Forest - £232 million
    • Barking and Dagenham - £209 million

Providing young people with green jobs is one of the means of addressing youth unemployment. The climate and ecological emergency will mostly harm young people and future generations as it unfolds, so addressing both these emergencies together is a win-win for young people.

Over £12.4 million has been raised for Friends of the Earth by players of People's Postcode Lottery.

The charity is also one of 12 environmental good causes to receive extra funding as part of the £24 million Postcode Climate Challenge initiative that supports climate action work and is only made possible because of players' support.

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