Before the world changed in March 2020 I attended a careers event all about sustainable careers put on by the People & Planet Society at the University of Bath. Due to the lockdown a summary of the event was not published. However, it was an inspiring evening with a range of different speakers presenting about their jobs and organisations with a few careers’ tips along the way, which is as relevant now as it was back then. Below is a summary of the evening which will support anyone thinking of a sustainable career.
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Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE)
CSE focuses on energy justice and unlocking mass public action to tackle climate change. Their teams are spread between Research, Home Energy, Local Energy and Community Engagement and Development & Communications. Find out more about CSE here. Make sure to get involved with CSE by applying for the internship programme, volunteer and sign up for e-news!
- Mike (Energy Management Team)
After studying for his degree in Geography, Mike went to teach English in China. This gave him many transferable skills such as teaching & presenting, admin and organisation and general communication skills. His advice is that any job will give you transferable skills, and you may find your niche whilst trying out different experiences and meeting new people. Mike saw first-hand pollution issues in China and this is where his interest in sustainability comes from. After China, Mike got involved in environmental volunteering projects in South America and attended a permaculture course. Because of his interest in the environment he studied a Master’s in Environmental Building Practices at CAT.
- Nick (Local and Community Empowerment Team)
Nick studied History at University, however he was involved in the Zero Carbon Society whilst studying, which gave him an insight into environmental matters. After university Nick spent some time overseas, working in projects surrounding urban greening and communicating with disadvantaged groups and how they feel about environmental change. This sparked an academic interest and he then decided to study a MA in Environmental History at University of Bristol. He soon after was successful in getting an internship at Centre for Sustainable Energy.
Both speakers advised students to take any opportunity they can and learn practicable skills. Get involved, volunteer, take courses! It’s never too late to steer your study and career in the direction you want.
Method Consulting - Sustainability in built environment
Deepika is an alumni from MSc Architecture Engineering at Bath and is a Building Physics Engineer who works with architects to improve building design.
Overall goal of company is to reduce the impact of buildings on the environment. This work involves a lot of multi-disciplinary work with engineers with different experiences. There are lots of different and varied projects, which involves a lot of different work such as overhearing analysis, thermal comfort analysis, daylight calculations and energy modelling. Have a look at what Method Consulting does.
Hewitt Studios - A Bath based CEO of sustainability focused architecture studio
Sustainable architecture is a megatrend and this creates business opportunities. An example of their work is the Straw Bale Cafe, which can be found here.
What is a sustainable career? The best advice to students is to think of new, innovative ways of doing things. There are no simple answers for what a sustainable career is, approach careers with full of optimism and creativity, apply fresh thinking, create new partnerships, develop your entrepreneurial skills and opportunities will come your way. In addition, if you are looking for an ethical company, make sure to look for those companies which are part of the solution, not the problem, and which are thinking in new innovative ways.
Green Planet Ventures
Loraiza runs a social enterprise which helps protect tropical forests, by applied research and sustainable development practices. They also aim to help young people to get the skills to be new environmental leaders. A career in sustainability can involve many sectors and offer opportunities for all degree disciplines, such as:
- Work including economics, social and environmental pillars
- Corporate sector (tech solutions, engineering, pharma, CSR, consultancy)
- Charity sector (environment, social improvement, international development, think tanks, research),
- Statutory and multilateral bodies (government, ministries, public services, UN, EU)
- Communication, marketing and sales/fundraising jobs covers first two as well.
After you have decided what sector you would like to work in then find organisations which resonate with your aspirations and go from there!
Chris Budd, University of Bath Professor of Applied Mathematics and Climate Modelling Scientist
Climate change is meeting place of scientists and policy makers, and Chris shared that mathematics play an important role!
Chris has been involved in work on earth systems models and simulations and advising the government. As an example, work they have done have resulted in improving the severe weather event forecast. In the environment sector there are lots of work for scientists, mathematicians and computer scientists as they are researching practical ways to save planet e.g. carbon capture and storage, energy harvesting, better illumination and renewable energy.
Peter Phelps, Energy & Environment Manager at the University of Bath
Peter has a varied role and is involved with a lot on campus, including Student Switch Off and Leave no Trace, Eco - design of new buildings, environmental policy and the Climate Action Framework. However, in his job he also deals with tasks such as legal and financial matters, technical projects and data systems and lots of collaboration with academics and others regarding strategy, behaviour change and funding.
Peter’s advice to students interested in an environmental career:
- There is no such thing as a clear career path – Peter himself has a degree in Mechanical Engineering and later completed a MSc in Environmental Science in New Zealand.
- There are a wide variety of roles and wide variety of employers, get to know them and research your own interests and aspirations.
- Get experience, direct and practical, or transferable. Any experience counts. Get involved on campus when you can!
- Be aware of technical/scientific knowledge vs greenwash.
- There is no single best route, go explore and learn from others and opportunities and pathways will open for you!
The Careers Service thanks People & Planet Society for putting on such an excellent event.