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Young workforce to take part in pioneering sustainability skills programme

Published: 18/01/2024

Seven young workers from across the Highlands and Islands are on a mission to find green solutions for their business as part of a pioneering workplace skills development programme focused on sustainability and future business prosperity.

Kelly Harwood, graduate net zero transition officer at HIE.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Zero Waste Scotland and business transformation enterprise Powering Futures have teamed up to provide the fully-funded places on the Highlands and Islands Powering Futures Challenge 2024.

Participants, aged 16-24, will tackle a sustainability challenge, collaborate on a solution, and present that solution to a panel of industry-leading judges.

The young people taking part in the challenge work for small and medium enterprises across the Highlands and Islands - including Shetland Woolen Mill, Tomintoul and Glenlivet Development Trust, Shetland Aerogenerators and Zero Waste Scotland - and will tackle challenges relating to the reduction of energy costs and waste within businesses and their supply chains.

At the end of the process, participants will gain a SCQF Level 6 qualification, and will have developed their skills in innovation, networking and collaboration.

Kelly Harwood, graduate net zero transition officer at HIE, said:

“We’re excited to be working with Powering Futures to encourage and empower our young workforce to come up with the solutions to the challenge of energy use. 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.

“By supporting the programme and upskilling young workers in a local business, we aim to empower the next generation with sustainable skill sets. This will not only enhance their employability but will also contribute to the long-term viability of local enterprises.”

Powering Futures was set up in 2020 to empower the young and future workforce with the skills, critical thinking, and enthusiasm to help their organisation transition to net zero. Partnering with businesses to help them solve real-time climate change challenges, Powering Futures tasks teams of 16–24-year-olds with solving a sustainability problem set by industry or their employer and supports them in coming up with creative solutions through teamwork and climate skills.   

Jennifer Tempany, co-founder of Powering Futures said:

“We are delighted to be working with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Zero Waste Scotland to bring this pioneering initiative to a second cohort of young workers across the region. The Highlands and Islands is home to some of Scotland’s most innovative industries such as energy, engineering and food and drink production - all of which are pivotal to the green transition and offer high-value employment opportunities to the next generation.

“Through the Powering Futures challenge programme, we are bringing together today’s employers with tomorrow’s employees to solve real-time sustainability challenges and work towards future economic prosperity. The example set by the first cohort of Highlands and Islands challenge participants proves that this model works - for businesses, the future workforce, and the climate. We are excited by what the 2024 Challenge will bring.”

Orkney-based Sheila Fleet Jewellery is taking part in the challenge, with participant Jocelyn Harcus looking at how to increase energy efficiency across the company’s workshops and operations.

Jocelyn Harcus from Sheila Fleet Jewellery said:

“I believe as a society we need to be kinder to our planet for future generations, so I joined the Powering Futures programme to help Sheila Fleet Jewellery be part of this change and help us to do what we can as a growing business.”

The Highlands and Islands Powering Futures Challenge 2024 follows the graduation of 60 young workers from the region who took part in the consortium’s 2023 Challenge where participants tackled sustainability challenges related to tourism and housing in the Highlands and Islands.

Read more information about the Powering Futures Challenge


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