Initiative aims to help disadvantaged pupils from south London meet the growing demand for skilled workers that is being created by the net zero transition
More than 100,000 pupils in south London are set to benefit from a new outreach programme launched by National Grid to help pupils from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds meet the massive demand for skilled workers generated by the UK's net zero transition.
National Grid is working with educational non-profit MyKindaFuture to deliver the programme, which will use interactive workshops and digital mentoring to encourage pupils to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and science (STEM). The initiative aims to address the sizeable skills gap the UK must bridge if it is to reach net zero emissions, with research by National Grid estimating the energy sector alone needs to fill 400,000 roles between now and 2050 in order to deliver required low carbon infrastructure.
The new programme was piloted in Southwark in early March to coincide with British Science and Engineering week. The expanded programme will now reach young people living in the seven boroughs of South London that are impacted by National Grid's £1bn London Power Tunnels (LPT) project, which is installing a new network of cable tunnels across the region.
Spanning five years, the scheme aims to reach the most disadvantaged schools and young people in the area, with research suggesting that disadvantaged students are twice as likely to become NEET - not in education, employment or training - aged 18 than their more affluent peers.
These inequalities are thought to have been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic, with blanket school closures hitting those with weaker support networks outside the school gates hardest. Through the peak of the pandemic, just 23 per cent of the most deprived schools had a suitable online platform in place to receive pupils' work, compared to 60 per cent of private schools, according to research from the Sutton Trust.
The new workshops will be led by volunteers, including from National Grid's LPT construction partner HOCHTIEF Murphy, as well as professionals from MyKindaFuture. This partnership will see National Grid delivering a new online challenge that tasks students with designing a radio ad in order to encourage a new generation to join the Net Zero Energy Workforce. This project will sit alongside attraction webinars, virtual workshops and digital mentoring schemes designed to develop employability skills and encourage careers in STEM, National Grid said.
National Grid project director Gareth Burden said the project "will help create a pipeline of talent for the hundreds of thousands of jobs we need to fill across the energy industry in order to meet our net zero targets by 2050.
"This is an amazing opportunity to empower pupils and give them the skills and information they need to pursue STEM subjects and careers in our industry," Burden added.
The news comes ahead of next week's Net Zero Skills Summit, hosted by BusinessGreen in partnership with National Grid as part of the Net Zero Festival. Delegates can register to attend the free event through the Net Zero Skills Summit website.
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