Trusting talented young people with our future

Trusting talented young people with our future

We can’t solve the environmental crisis without the intellectual and physical firepower of dedicated young people and their innovative pro-active approach to old problems and new challenges. But we can help them to develop the new ideas, skills and smart technologies they will need to improve both their futures and ours.

I make no apology for what I am going to say next. I would like to encourage everyone who can to endeavour to take on one apprentice for every ten staff members, and, where possible offer career development support to local schools.

We have done this and the results are excellent – with lots of good fun and teambuilding for everyone involved. Our problems cannot be solved by one generation alone and it’s great to see members of a multi-generational team start to weave themselves together, pool their knowledge, build new partnerships, and learn from each other. We’re passing on the torch … gradually.

Career mentoring at local schools is our starting point. Some pupils go on to become graduates. Others chose graduate apprenticeship schemes with companies like Enzygo. As permanent staff members, both join the next generation of problem-solvers – often becoming school mentors themselves.

If it helps, I will be delighted to discuss our experiences. Please just give me a call. Or watch the video below

Young people have more future ahead of them

As 2019’s school strikes and street ‘rebellions’ have shown, young people are acutely aware of the environmental risks to the future and are committed to making a difference. They have a longer and larger stake in what lies ahead than many of us, and the right to plan their own destiny where we leave off.

I would like to suggest that we have a duty to help them equip and prepare themselves for that long-term journey, and in so doing perhaps make our own later years more secure. But the future for young people is not going to be straightforward or easy.

They will have to be extremely flexible, ready to meet continuous change, have the mental ability to handle major set-backs and bounce back resiliently from crisis after crisis. Above all, they will need to learn from failure, a technique created by NASA. That’s a tough combination.

Mature and modest

Mid-career – and I’m still feeling young and energetic myself – may be a good point to remind ourselves that although “we were the future once” we can’t hold on to that title forever. Young people today are in general probably far more aware and better informed than we were at the same age. I hope so for the sake of progress!

Certainly, their A-level and university course content is more demanding. It may be sobering to realise that the children we were nurturing ten years ago now have ideas that are much more persuasive than our own. That’s life. Egos are costly. Time to move on.

A more positive approach I think is that young people can learn from us – and we can learn from them. We may be convinced that we know best but should listen carefully to what they believe and feel as that is the real shape of the future.

Emergencies, crises and young employees

What makes “now” a particularly important time for working with young people of all ages is the rapidly accelerating rate of climate change – a fact that they have shown they are well aware of.

As environmental consultants, it is our job to notice this. However, most businesses are probably also aware via their supply chains, flood risks, or potential water use restrictions.

In October 2018, the UK Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that we have 12 years left to keep global temperature rises below 1.50C, rather than our current trajectory of 3.30C.

Joachim Schellnhuber, founder of the influential Potsdam Climate Institute thinks this may be down to just 18-months, explaining recently that, “The climate math is brutally clear: While the world can’t be healed within the next few years, it may be fatally wounded by negligence until 2020”.


In addition to our own first-hand evidence of heatwaves and storms, strange events are occurring more frequently worldwide. Alaska’s Anchorage inside the Arctic Circle saw outdoor swimming in a July heatwave while parts of the Mexican city of Guadalajara were buried under 1.5m of hail stones.

No wonder young people want to join the environmental industry!

Making a difference

One of the attractions of an environmental career I always think is the shear range of opportunities for making a real difference – from practical on-site work, to design using advanced software modelling tools, planning liaison with local authorities and working closely with clients.

For people with an academic orientation, urgent new research horizons are opening up. A good example is a current concern about a possible recurrence of the mega-droughts which lasted for many years from the 9th to the 16th century in south-west America caused by changes in the La Niña Pacific Ocean phenomena.

Enzygo opportunities for young people

I thought it might be helpful to look at some high points from our 2018 and 2019 company diary to show how companies can help young people in their careers – I must emphasise that this has been a group effort by the whole Enzygo team!

But first I would like to outline our apprenticeship approach at Enzygo.

Enzygo is an independent, multi-disciplinary environmental consultancy with a proven track record for creative, integrated and cost-effective solutions across major infrastructure projects, residential housing schemes and renewable energy programmes.

From a career perspective, our work involves Planning, Hydrology and Drainage, Permitting and Regulation, Landscape, Ecology, Transport, Geo-Environmental and Hydrogeology, Noise and Vibration, and Arboriculture.

What we do at Enzygo…

We started our flurry into apprenticeships back in 2016 when we recruited an administration assistant. If you watch the short video below it explains a little about the role and routes taken.

We supported our administration apprentice through Level 2 and 3 qualifications in Business Administration. The appointment was very successful and culminated in our apprentice being runner up in the Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber apprentice award.

We then took the model further and embarked on having one apprentice for every ten full-time staff in our Sheffield office.

Our next two apprentices were one technical where we looked to train our own drainage engineer, this was exceptionally successful with Charlie now about to become our first-degree apprentice in 2020. We then further enhanced our administrative function with a second admin apprentice in 2019.

More information on apprenticeships can be found at and

During 2018

I promised some details of our practical interaction with schools, students and apprentices and here they are.

In 2018, we were proud to congratulate our talented graphics consultant, Nadya Petrova as Student of the Year on Rotherham College’s English for Speakers of Other Languages Employability Programme (ESOL) designed to improve confidence, team building and the communication skills. (

Our team also helped 15 Stocksbridge High School students in the Landscape Design Challenge devised by Enzygo’s Landscape Architects, to design a school using a full range of consultancy skills. The winning solution was practical, fun and included access by climbing ropes. Very original thinking! (

Following a successful Diana Award mentoring scheme, we also invited Stocksbridge High School students to presentations from our technical discipline leaders – planning permission for roads and buildings; noise assessments; landscape architecture to master-plan and optimise site value, plus transport and hydrology/drainage covered access in relation to traffic, flooding and drainage. (

At the end of the year, we sponsored the Enzygo Apprentice of the Year award at the Barnsley and Rotherham Awards 2018 which was won by Katie Andrews from Liberty Speciality Steels (

During 2019

Richard Hughes (Senior Hydrologist) and Ian Hopkinson (Senior Hydrologist) started 2019 at Netherwood Academy for Year 8 Labour Marketing Day ( Our apprentice Lucy Cowley and I then shared Enzygo’s apprenticeship experiences at the Source Skills Academy for Question Time Skills Event (

In April, Ollie and Charlotte from Leeds and Coventry University joined us as 2018-19 placement students ( Lucy took to the stage again in April at The Source’s National Apprenticeship Week Question Time: Skills Event to discuss her budding career and urge Sheffield City Region businesses to maintain their commitment to young learners despite Brexit worries (

In the same month, Eric O’Connor (Senior Consultant) took part in the Primary Business Showcase at Carrfield Academy (, explaining to pupils what they had wanted to be when they were younger, how they got into our industry, qualifications and skills needed, plus career opportunities. As a result, 100% of pupils said they had a better understanding of different careers and promised to work harder at school!

Our Sheffield office continues to support Leeds Geography Department with mentoring and work placements in our ever-expanding Water Sciences Team ( and the Ahead Partnership by helping to inspire school children about the world of work in STEM Engineering environmental (

In June, our Charles Hague was an Apprentice of the Year finalist in the Barnsley College Student Awards 2019. He joined Enzygo on an apprenticeship at Barnsley College and does fantastic work with our hydrology and drainage team (

Fifteen Stocksbridge High School students again took part in our Landscape Design Challenge, this time led by Graham Bailey, Enzygo’s Associate Director of Landscape Architecture ( Eric and Lucy also joined a Career Pathway evening at Netherwood Academy. Lucy took questions about her apprenticeship; Eric shared his experience of A-levels and moving on to a degree at university (

As part of our Corporate Social Responsibility, through the Enterprise Adviser Partnership, we link what-we-do as a business to the school curriculum. I explained recently how this helps to bring on future employees, raise student aspirations and prepare young people for work (

As I hope Enzygo’s record shows, we actively support all these goals both for young people and for ourselves.

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