New scheme to boost green job opportunities in East London

Unemployed young people in East London are being encouraged to join a new green jobs training programme, which could benefit both them and their community

The East London Green Jobs Alliance is providing education and work experience with an emphasis on renewable energy and energy efficient projects. While providing opportunities for young people, the scheme also aims to stimulate the local economy.

Starting with the five boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Newham, Waltham Forest and Greenwich, the alliance is currently sourcing employers for its first demonstration project. Apprenticeships in the green construction industry will be provided for a group of 15 young people, who will be trained to install solar panels or insulation.

The young people will receive pre-apprenticeship training from Tower Hamlets College, which will be designed around the needs of the placements and include additional teaching on environmental issues.

The training is due to begin at the start of 2012 and the alliance will start its outreach for participants later this year.

Hanna Thomas, lead organiser for The East London Green Jobs Alliance, said: “Statistics reveal that those out of work are significantly less happy with their health, friendship and family life than those in work, and one in ten young people claim that unemployment drove them to drugs and alcohol.”

With open arms to support, train and encourage young and unemployed people to work in a fulfilling environment, the alliance also wants to influence the future direction of the economy.

“We see this as a chance to influence emerging government policy through creating an example of effective grassroots action that brings issues of social justice and equity into the centre of the new green economy,” Hanna said.

According to the programme’s organisers, it has received overwhelming interest from the local community. The Otesha Project, the anchor organisation for the alliance, ran a programme last year called Gear Up, which placed young, unemployed people in green internships. “The fact that Gear Up was oversubscribed, speaks of the demand from young people in the area looking for green and decent work,” said Hanna.

Alongside The Otesha Project UK, which helps young people create social and environmental change, a diverse coalition of trade unions, NGOs, community-based organisations and green businesses makes up the alliance. Members include Fairbridge, which support disadvantaged young people and The UK Youth Climate Coalition, which is also currently running its own campaign called Push Europe, calling for a switch to clean energy and more green employment opportunities for young people across the EU.

“We recognise that it is a crucial time for the UK green jobs movement and that the direction it takes now will determine its success,” said Hanna. “Our project will not only make a difference to the lives of young people we work with; we hope that this will mark the beginning of a green jobs movement that keeps social justice at its heart, and which we will play a key role in shaping.”

Next summer, the East London Green Jobs Alliance will take a roadshow around the UK to help inspire other communities to start their own green jobs training programmes. “We’ve already sparked ideas in Birmingham, Cumbria and South London, and we look forward to sparking many more,” said Hanna.