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Highlands and Islands Fuel Change Challenge launched

Published: 24/03/2023

Skills boosting sustainability challenge launched for young workers in the Highlands and Islands.

young people working together

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Zero Waste Scotland, and business transformation enterprise, Fuel Change are teaming up to launch a region-wide sustainability challenge to boost young workforce skills.

The Fuel Change Highlands and Islands Challenge sets teams of young people between 16-24 real world problems based around sustainability themes. Fully funded places are open to participants from Highlands and Islands businesses, community organisations, charities and UHI students.

The challenge, which will start in early May, aims to encourage a positive mindset and practical skills to develop new, innovative, net zero and circular solutions. In addition, the challenge provides an opportunity for businesses, charities and other organisations in the region to network and collaborate, helping to create a more integrated and connected workforce.

Keith Masson, head of net zero transition at HIE, said: “We’d love to see as many businesses as possible get involved from across the region. Over the course of the 16-week programme, the teams work together through a mentored problem-solving process, and develop sustainable solutions as well as meta skills - along the way.

“The programme offers organisations the perfect ready-made opportunity to skill-up and inspire workers to impact both their own future, and their enterprise’s approach to net zero.“

Helen Lavery, partner at Zero Waste Scotland, says the project is also looking for industry input. She commented: “This landmark project brings stakeholders together from across the Highlands and Islands to unite on what is the most pressing challenge facing us today.  Putting our businesses and communities at the heart of transition is vital. As well as signing up to take part, local businesses and organisations can help shape the challenges, or be ambassadors or mentors for some of the teams who sign up.”

Potential themes for the challenges include: whisky; energy; tourism; work, rest and play in the region; and food systems. There is an event being held at UHI Inverness on 30 March for those interested in finding out more, and with an opportunity to hear from previous challenge participants and employers.

The Highlands and Islands project is based on the nationally-recognised Fuel Change Challenge. With over 2,000 participants and 175 businesses across Scotland having already experienced Fuel Change. There are many examples of successful outcomes including participants going on to win national awards in net zero, sustainability, and climate leadership.

You can get involved in this challenge in a number of ways:

  • Enter a team into the challenge
  • Get involved in helping set one of the questions
  • Get involved as a mentor to one of the teams
  • Get involved as a member of the judging panel at the end of the challenge

Jennifer Tempany, Chief Operating Officer of Fuel Change, commented:

“Most organisations see achieving net zero as important rather than urgent. As a cost rather than a benefit – we know it is a transformational for businesses and individuals. Having founded Fuel Change in 2020, we have already worked with over 2000 participants and established partnerships with 150 organisations to solve decarbonisation challenges and unleash talent within the next generation.

“It’s the organisations that are investing in their employees and creatively tackling sustainability issues that are going to have the most success in years to come. That is why Fuel Change, and our industry partners, are calling on every Highlands and Islands business - big or small - to engage with this Challenge.

“We are excited at this opportunity to partner with HIE and Zero Waste Scotland to help support and develop the next generation in helping to drive the Net Zero transition within their workplaces and communities. From our experience to date, we’ve seen how providing young people with an opportunity such as this can help to unleash their talent and skills, to the major benefit of them and their employer.”

UHI Inverness is currently working with Invergordon distillers Whyte and MacKay on an in-house Fuel Change Challenge, with 17 students developing circular economic solutions. They’re also supporting the Highlands and Islands Challenge, offering space for teams to meet, learn, present, and produce their challenge solutions.

The UHI partnership is promoting the opportunity to their students across the Highlands & Islands. Professor Chris O'Neil, Principal and Chief Executive of UHI Inverness said: “Following our ongoing participation in the Whyte and Mackay Fuel Change Challenge, we are very pleased to host the launch of the new Highlands and Islands challenge. This is another fantastic opportunity for students to test themselves to create solutions which incorporate their developing technical skills with sustainable, circular economic and net zero understanding.

“At UHI Inverness we value the constructive partnerships we have fostered with businesses and organisations, and we are delighted to support a project that will nurture the same collaborative approach.”

For more information on ways to participate on the challenge see here
To sign up for the event on March 30 see here

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