Six Months on from the ‘Green and Decent Jobs’ Report at Otesha.

8th July 2013 by

Back in February 2013, Otesha joined forces with Intentionality to launch the ‘Green and Decent Jobs’ report reflecting on Otesha’s experiences delivering their Green Jobs Programme.  The initial plan was to follow a pipeline model, guiding participants through training, work experience, environmental literacy and ideally towards employment.  Otesha tried to create connections with the renewable energy construction industry to underpin the development of participants.   The report describes the barriers that were overcome and the important lessons learned.  The Green Jobs programme has since evolved from this formative experience, and now largely flies under the banner of ‘Branch Out’, as well as broader campaigning through the East London Green Jos Alliance  and our Roots of Success course.

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The report found that a significant barrier to the Green Economy’s growth has been the uncertainty surrounding national policy.  Unfortunately this remains the case with the blocking of the Energy Bill’s decarbonisation amendment.  However, this has not stopped Branch Out from reaching young people and making successful connections with like-minded organisations in Hackney that aim to provide these people with skills, training and opportunities.

 

A switch in the course’s emphasis from construction to horticulture has been key.  Once a week, the participants attend a session at St Mary’s Secret Garden working towards a City and Guilds Level 1 Award in Practical Horticulture Skills.  Additionally, there have been trips to induction days at Streetscape and Cre8 Arc for the participants to gain some work experience.  Overall, the horticulture sector seems more receptive to cooperating.  This is perhaps due to being less dependent on long-term investment that is required for  growth in the renewable energy construction industry.

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Although gardening and growing healthy food sustainably is close to our hearts (and stomachs) at Otesha, Branch Out offers much more.  In fact an impressively comprehensive suite of courses have been organised.   Throughout the 12 weeks that Branch Out runs, there are sessions in the kitchens at Made in Hackney; there is the accredited Roots of Success environmental literacy course; employability skills workshops; finance and money management sessions with MyBnk; individual mentoring sessions with Otesha’s Green Jobs Programme directors; and the option to be assigned a mentor once the participant has completed Branch Out.  Best of all, the course can be shaped by the participants themselves who are encouraged to suggest ideas for trips and talks.

In the 6 months since the ‘Green and Decent Jobs’ report, Otesha’s Green Jobs programme has come a long way.  We have a full compliment of activities, a dedicated network of supporting organisations, and most importantly, participants with loads of enthusiasm.  Our first batch of graduates have gone onto further horticulture training, and various other apprenticeships including solar panel installation.  Otesha are welcoming applicants for one more Branch Out in 2013, and three in 2014.

By Phil Aubert, green jobs volunteer

Enterprise: a solution to our economic and environmental challenges?

31st October 2012 by

Otesha’s mission is to build a community of young people who see their lives as powerful tools for change. A part of that is to show people that they are citizens, not just consumers and that they aren’t defined by how they spend their money. But unless you’re emulating the Moneyless Man, then you’ll probably have to spend money on some things and we want to encourage you to think about how you can use that spending to support projects which have the best interests of people and planet in mind.

A social enterprise is a business which trades for a social and/or environmental purpose. These businesses operate with a ‘triple bottom line’ in which the economic, social and environmental performance is measured at the end of each year. Famous examples of companies which were set up explicitly to do good include Divine Chocolate (which as well as being Fairtrade is 45% owned by the farmers) and the Big Issue . Such companies produce a product and make a profit, whilst providing an opportunity for people facing barriers to improve their own skills and finances.

At Otesha we’ve been thinking about how we can use social enterprise at a more local level to tackle the huge environmental and economic problems facing the young people we work with. Along with our partners in the East London Green Jobs Alliance, we provide high quality environmental literacy and job readiness training to prepare young people for work. But with 1 million UK youth experiencing unemployment, what if there isn’t a green and decent job for them to go into? Increasingly, we’re saying ‘why not create your own?’

Setting up a social enterprise could provide meaningful work for young people in businesses which do a lot for our communities. A great example comes from our friends at the Golden Company, a social enterprise which works with young people in East London who want to become beekeepers. 15 people this year have learnt how to look after bees and then create, market and sell products made from their honey. At the other end of the scale Fair Finance, a social enterprise also based in East London, offers a range of financial services and support to people who are excluded, protecting them from loan sharks and predatory payday loan companies like Wonga.   They’re providing a service, creating jobs and improving the social benefits of community-level financial companies.

Otesha is currently producing a ‘how to guide’ for organisations and individuals looking to set up their own social enterprise. In the meantime, you can find out about funding opportunities and advice from our friends at UnLtd and the Young Foundation. If you have a social enterprise that you’d like us to share as a case study, get in touch with Claire at clairea@otesha.org.uk.

ROAD TRIP!!!

1st June 2012 by

That’s right, I spent a substantial part of last month on the road with the One Million Climate Jobs Caravan, organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group. There were two vans – one going round the North and one going round the South (and before you ask, they were the most fuel efficient vans possible) – and I hopped on for Birmingham, Southampton, Portsmouth, Brighton, and Manchester. Phew!

We would park up in the city centres during the day, telling people about the One Million Climate Jobs report that lays out a strategy for government investment that would create one million climate jobs, which would go a looong way towards addressing the double whammy we face at the moment, of climate change and economic recession. We had a petition for people to sign up to calling for the government to take on this strategy, and we had a lot of information on the tables from this campaign and others, like the UK Youth Climate Coalition’s Youth for Green Jobs campaign.

The consequence of having all this information, a sign-up sheet, and a massive van that said ONE MILLION CLIMATE JOBS on the side of it? People started queueing. For a job. We were approached, again and again, by people who were looking for a job and thought we were recruiting, and it was the same in all the towns the caravan visited apparently. We had to say, again and again, that we didn’t actually have jobs to offer, but we were campaigning for the government to create them! I met men on the dole who signed our petition, went to the job centre to sign on, and then came back to try and sign the petition again because they felt so strongly. I met a 17 year old girl who was 3 months pregnant and couldn’t find anyone to take her on. I met young people about to graduate from college or university, and were scared about the economic climate they were about to graduate into. And everyone I met, without exception, agreed that it made sense to create jobs in sectors that would also work to improve our environment and slow climate change.

The experience was heartbreaking, but also invigorating. It proved to me how dire the situation is for so many people across the country, that they think their best hope for a job might be a van parked up on the side of the road. But it also proved how essential it is that we are campaigning on this issue, and it showed how much support people have for the green jobs agenda. Because why wouldn’t they? IT MAKES SENSE.

In each town, there was a public meeting in the evening hosted by local organisers. People from the local councils, unions, and activist groups came together to see what they could do about creating climate / green jobs locally. I spoke to each of them about our experiences with the East London Green Jobs Alliance, sharing our learnings and the process by which we set it up and got it going. The meetings I went to were great, but to be honest, turn out was fairly low, with between 15 – 40 at each meeting (I think it was higher in the north). I don’t think it’s for lack of support for the agenda, as I really felt that out on the street. And those conversations I had on the street were educational, because unlike trade unionists or environmentalists, who have been banging on about this stuff for ages, I really felt that many people with no political agenda or affiliation were getting wise to the situation. And I felt that they were on the cusp of taking action. Maybe signing a petition was the first step.

It definitely won’t be their last. Because the economic situation isn’t going to get any better soon, nor is the environmental situation. There will come a moment, soon, when people who see a van on the side of the street won’t politely queue. They will scramble, and they will fight, and they will start to fill the halls at public meetings. And what will the government do then?

One year on from San Francisco – are green jobs gaining traction in the UK?

4th May 2012 by

I can’t believe that it’s been over a year since I was in San Francisco cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge, eating ice cream in the grounds of UC Berkeley, and strolling down Haight-Ashbury.

Oh yes, AND learning and being inspired by tons of California green jobs projects, as part of the IPPR West Coast Green Alliances learning exchange. Many of you read and responded to my blog posts from California, and I thought that now would be a great time to take stock of what has happened in the UK since then. I want to ask whether we have managed to implement any of the lessons that we learned in California; what more needs to be done; and are we any closer to making that transition to a just, green economy?

What have we been doing?

In answer to that first question, there is a ton of exciting green jobs stuff that’s happened and got off the ground in the past year. Here is a run down of some of the projects that have been initiated and managed by those on the learning exchange. 

- IPPR released a report in July 2011, Green Expectations: Lessons from the U.S. green jobs Market. More recently, they have turned their attentions to the potential economic and social impact that might arise from the Green Deal.

The Greener Jobs Alliance, led by UCU, has launched the Green Skills Manifesto (if you’d like to endorse it, emailGPetersen@ucu.org.uk) and been busy working with South Thames College and Sustainable Merton to provide training in green skills. Watch their video on Community Approaches to the Green Deal.

Capacity Global convened the London Greener Jobs Hub in the months after the learning exchange, with a view to create leadership in London on green jobs and provide an information hub. Keep your eyes peeled for a launch event in September, as well as a green jobs fair! Their Skin project is also up and running, working with the hair and beauty industry to demonstrate that we can create green and decent jobs within non-traditional green industries.

The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation have continued to be an exciting and progressive funder, supporting the work of The Otesha Project UK and their Greener Jobs Pipeline project, the London Greener Jobs Hub, the Transition Network’s ReEconomy project, and the Finance Innovation Lab, among many others!

Friends of the Earth took the government to court over the cuts to the feed-in tariff, and won! Our Solar Future estimate that the FIT cuts threaten 25,000 jobs in the UK.

Oxfam Scotland have been doing amazing stuff setting up social enterprises that plant trees as a means to regenerate marginal land for community benefit. On the employability front, they are developing a programme on community improvement and sustainable development in secondary schools with a view to increasing awareness and employability skills for the green economy, and a programme for young unemployed people is currently underway. 

Claverhouse have been able to sustain 5 full-time equivalent jobs in their construction materials reclaim/recycling enterprise and are now producing a tonne of wood fuel briquettes per week from recycled timber!

The Climate Alliance renamed itself the Alliance for Jobs, Climate and Communities and is currently planning a big campaign…

And I have been really busy at The Otesha Project UK, moving ahead with our work with the East London Green Jobs Alliance (so many alliances..).

So I think, maybe, we’ve done a pretty good job as a team since our return from California! Granted, we don’t have a green economy yet, but we sure as hell are paddling fast to get there.

What else is going on?

There are some other very cool things going on too, including the One Million Climate Jobs Caravan (coming to a town near you in a couple of weeks), and the UK Youth Climate Coalition Youth for Green Jobs campaign. Actually, there are too many cool things going on for me to list. Upsetting that I can’t list everything, but also kind of heartening!

What more needs to happen?

Um, a lot. Because unemployment is kerazeee right now and that pesky climate just won’t settle down. Because the solutions being presented through government programmes, like Workfare, are neither green nor decent. If you want me to talk about, you know, actual concrete things, then I suggest that we can all shine a spotlight on the UN Earth Summit come June (also known as the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development). Why? Because they are negotiating two big themes, and a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication is one of them. This is a crucial opportunity to shout loud about the commitment we want to see from nation states in making the transition to a green economy, by making actionable plans that will create green and decent jobs, and promote access to green skills. So why not sign up for updates and take action. I will also be following the negotiations and blogging from Rio, so may be sending along a personalised update or two…

So that’s the One-Year-On update! Well done if you got to the end, since it was looong. But I think that’s testament to the fact that, although we’re operating in a very difficult economic and political climate at the moment, things are still moving forward. We are pushing ahead and little by little, change is happening.

Where the ladies at?

21st March 2011 by

This past week DECC youth panel advisor (and past Otesha tour member) Kirsty Schneeberger wrote a blog about a recent all-male all-white energy expert panel at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. It was great to see a conversation open up about how to motivate more girls to purse careers in science, engineering and technology. We don’t have this conversation often enough. In the past 10 years, the gender pay gap has barely moved, and the gap is widest in skilled trades like engineering. Women are still penalised for career success and men are rewarded, since they get more likeable as they move up the proverbial ladder and we get less so.

Even in the warm and fuzzy charity sector, where sometimes it feels like we’re surrounded by women, 80% of Chief Executive roles are still held by dudes. When I attend events, people often assume I’m an assistant or intern, rather than Otesha’s director (our job titles aren’t on our business cards). Lots of my twenty-something friends report similar stories. We’ve all got battle scars from times we were belittled, patronised or just plain underestimated, no matter how much we were kicking ass at our jobs at that particular point in time.

Since Otesha recently convened the fledgling (and very exciting!) East London Green Jobs Alliance, I’m particularly interested in how women will participate in the green jobs of the future. As we move to a low carbon economy, many emerging green jobs will be in the trades sectors. Drafty homes need to be cozied up with insulation, public transportation infrastructure needs to be upgraded and expanded, and renewable energy technologies need to be rolled out. This is a potentially amazing opportunity for the 1 in 5 young people who are looking for work right now, which is why the East London Green Jobs Alliance is planning a pilot to help unemployed young people snag these jobs.

But I can’t help but wonder – how will girls fare? A recent survey by the TUC and YWCA shows that only 3% of engineering apprentices and 1% of construction apprentices are women. Instead, we flock to apprenticeships in the much lower-paid bastions of “women’s work”, childcare and hairdressing. People point to lots of barriers, from poor career guidance to a lack of mentors and role models. Either way, one thing is clear – we can’t build an inclusive green economy without addressing gender equity (and other types of equity, for that matter).

Across the spectrum, whether you’re a solar roofer, the CEO of a green-tech company or a top policy maker.if you hold a green job you are probably not a woman. This needs to change.

P.S. For a perspective on how to tackle the gender gap in high-powered positions, Sheryl Sandberg COO of Facebook gives a compelling TED talk on why we have too few female leaders.

Goodbye Gear Up.. Hello East London Green Jobs Alliance!

15th March 2011 by

How time flies. It is March already, and that means our Gear Up programme is wrapping up. As coordinator of the programme, I have had such a fun time meeting all the young people we have worked with, mentoring them, helping them to gain more experience and start their journey towards green and meaningful employment.

We have worked with 18 young people in total, connecting them in internships and training in ethical fashion, waste management, green woodwork, green enterprise, and bike mechanics. They have also received training in local food production, money management, cv-writing, and cycling proficiency – Ozlem (above) loved her cycling training at Bikeworks so much that she is planning on giving up her car and buying a bike! I said goodbye to Ozlem earlier this week, sending her off with a reusable coffee cup and a copy of the Otesha handbook. But this isn’t the last we’ll see of her, or any of our Gear Up participants, as they will all be added to our alumni network, and continue to hear of job and volunteer opportunities, and other exciting things, through our weekly update. You can’t get rid of us that easily! Once you’re in, you’re in.

We’d like to say a big, heartfelt thank you to the Youth of Today for supporting this project.

And now, to pastures new! Our Gear Up programme might be winding down, but we have been squirrelling away in the background making even bigger plans for the coming year. Last November, we held our first roundtable discussion for organisations interested in local green job creation in East London, and we’ve had two more since then. Some very exciting people have been a part of the conversation – TUC, Friends of the Earth, Hackney City Farm, Bikeworks, Friends of the Earth, IPPR, UK Youth Climate Coalition, Aspire, London Development Agency, Tower Hamlets council, Tower Hamlets College, Young Foundation, Capacity Global, Fairbridge – I get excited just writing it out! Together, we have established the East London Green Jobs Alliance.

We have looked to the example of projects in the States, who have successfully created pathways into green jobs for young, unemployed people. We want to take that model and see how to make it work here in the UK. It’s all still early days – our mission statement is getting final touches to it as we speak – but we will be very excited to make it public in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about the alliance, and how we plan to learn from projects in the US, please look at my blog entry below and sign up for updates from my learning trip to San Francisco!

Lessons from California – want to be on a Green Jobs mailing list?

15th March 2011 by

From 28th March – April 2nd, I will be joining IPPR on their West Coast Green Alliances learning exchange. We will be meeting with some incredibly inspirational organisations and alliances over there, including Green for All, the Ella Baker Center, and the Apollo Alliance, among many others, to learn from their challenges and successes in stimulating the creation of good-quality, local jobs in emerging green sectors.

From a personal point of view, I am incredibly keen to establish what worked and what didn’t for these organisations, and to take the lessons learned and start to understand how to apply them to a UK context. This will be crucial to inform my work at The Otesha Project, as anchor organisation of the East London Green Jobs Alliance. It will also be crucial for those other organisations and projects here that seek to be at the forefront of the green jobs movement, and that is why I would like to share what I learn with those who are interested.

If you would like to receive email updates on my meetings in San Francisco (which will be brief and to the point, I promise!), and to be a part of sharing best practices on local green job creation, please email me at hanna@otesha.org.uk and let me know. Please also feel free to suggest anyone else who you think might benefit from this, that I might not be in contact with.

I look forward to building this movement with you!


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