The community–run scheme is helping 16-19 year olds who have been out of the job market for a long time, and feel disengaged with education, uncertain of their future in these difficult times. It also aims to help lift youngsters and their families out of fuel poverty through education.
Energy Garden’s youth training programme covers sustainable energy, social enterprise, community development, and practical learning in the urban environment. In a new partnership it has joined up with UK Power Networks which delivers power to 2.3 million homes and businesses across London, to give the young people behind-the-scenes insight into energy issues including the UK’s transition to net zero and a visit to Leicester Square where the company is installing £16.2 million worth of state-of-the-art underground equipment. The 11 participants currently enrolled, benefit from 40 hours’ insight and experience into the world of low carbon and the green economy, through solar panel making, visits to technology sites, discussions with industry figures, community engagement and surveying.
They are supported with CV writing and how to use social media platforms to showcase their professional skills. Upon completion, trainees are awarded Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) certificates and receive careers advice to boost their employability prospects and confidence, with some either signing up for more study or gaining employment.
Edward Sun, 17, born and raised in nearby Chinatown, said: “This programme has been incredible and provided a new engineering perspective, especially on electrical engineering. I’ve enjoyed the visit to the transformers under Leicester Square the most so far as I had never known that underneath the busy square were three massive transformers that are so essential to everyday life in the area, and most likely provides me with electricity. This has been a wonderful experience and I look forward to the future of the programme.”
Agamemnon Otero MBE, chief executive of Energy Garden, said: “There is a misconception that youth want a way out of their communities. That is far from the truth - they want a level playing field. They want the same access to opportunities as those around them. Energy Garden provides place-based learning of the finance, IT, legal, technical and media elements of owning a community energy company. The trainees benefit from hands-on experience and meet top brass in the energy sector. A door to possibilities in their local community opens, and they walk through.”
Liam O’Sullivan, head of capital programme and procurement delivery at UK Power Networks, added: “We want to bring meaningful public engagement to our infrastructure projects, so we put people at the heart of the energy system, giving them the power to feed into plans and see what happens behind the scenes to keep London powered. This is about encouraging innovation, building resilience and creating a sustainable future.”
UK Power Networks also runs an apprenticeship programme to bring in new talent for its future workforce, and which was recently highly commended in the Regional Apprenticeship Awards 2020 and is rated a ‘platinum’ employer by Investors in People.