Do we have the skills to save our planet?
COP26 is the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties, where countries across the UN have come together to discuss the ongoing climate crisis and how to make progress in tackling it, agreeing on goals and targets for going forward. The importance of this particular discussion at COP26 was to discuss the importance of encouraging the new generation and young entrepreneurs to take up STEM careers in relation to the wider aims of tackling the climate crisis. COP26’s overall aims are to agree on what action will be taken to secure global net-zero and keep 1.5 degrees in reach.
Science gives us hope for our future, for the planet, and the next generation of STEM careers. This, alongside the issue of the current skills shortage, is what was discussed in this year’s session on ‘STEM for all and the climate crisis’ as part of COP26.
When it comes to the climate emergency, people and technology are key to so many of the solutions that will be vital to turning around the climate crisis and have allowed us to develop techniques to use as answers and actions to the crisis. Examples of the innovations being used to reduce CO2 emissions include carbon capture, utilisation, and storage technologies. This process is momentous in tackling the climate crisis and has already made a positive impact by reducing global carbon dioxide emissions.
Vice President of the European Investment Bank, Ambroise Fayolle, discusses the urgency of this and how the only way to get ahead of this crisis “is through technological innovation in clean energy and low-carbon technologies”.
How can we tackle the skills shortage?
To tackle these issues and take a step in the right direction towards solving them, we need to address the challenges we are facing. This will require many skills, including creative problem solving and how to use data effectively. These skills are vital as they will be used alongside the use of technology and data, as these components on their own will not get us as far as if we use our creativity and own personal skills for innovative approaches. As part of our efforts to address the current skills shortage and help the crisis, we need to encourage people, particularly the next generation of young people, to solve these issues, which will be done by providing them with the education and opportunities needed for them to be involved in doing so.
Science and new technology have been at the forefront of the pandemic, which has inspired a new generation to pursue careers in STEM. Although interest is increasing, we need to further inspire the new generation of tech, pushing the importance of STEM subjects to increase take-up at a school level. We also need to double down on efforts to advocate science and inclusive innovation to address the challenges that lie ahead.
Mhairi McCann, founder of Youth STEM 2030 believes that;
Therefore, inspiring and creating opportunities for youth in STEM will in turn create a wider skill set and abundance of people who will have acquired these skills, and be able to use them towards the efforts to solve the climate crisis.
Currently, just 19% of the tech workforce are women, and around 14-15% of the UK tech workforce are from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds. This simply doesn’t line up with the UK population split and means that the opinions and pain points of certain groups cannot be accurately represented and addressed.
Diversifying the STEM workforce
Going forward, therefore, it will be crucial to have a diverse community that will be able to solve problems like this. Another challenge in today’s society is wanting tech to represent a diversity of thought within communities through using tech. This is something that we at La Fosse are actively trying to promote and support through our coding academy, futureproof. We have made our course free to remove barriers to tech carriers and to ensure the tech of the future is made by everyone, for everyone. Learn more about futureproof here.
Why is it important to encourage the new generation to pursue careers and an education in STEM?
The skills needed to combat the effect of climate change will come from the new generation of STEM students. As they move through their careers, they will be the ones to begin using the skills associated with these sectors to work on solving the ever-expanding issue of climate change.
It is everyone’s responsibility, especially big companies, to assist in the efforts to solve the crisis. One huge conglomerate already taking their responsibility seriously is 3M, who shared the importance of having an education-focused goal:
Dr. Jayshree Seth, 3M Chief Science Advocate states:
“In 2021, as part of our overall commitment to creating greater equity in our communities, business practices, and workplaces, we have the new global education focussed goal, which will be creating 5 million unique STEM and skilled trades learning experiences for underrepresented individuals by the end of 2025”.
By investing more money into learning experiences and trades, we will be able to boost the skills needed within these industries, in turn helping solve the climate crisis.
Findings suggest that the most positive impact happens with shared responsibility amongst scientists, governments, business leaders, egos, academic institutions, and individuals, all acting in pursuit of common goals.
COP26 is continuing until this Friday, 12th November. View the full Green Zone programme of events here.