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.
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.
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