SOSE and businesses engage workforce of the future through Fuel Change programme

SOSE and businesses engage workforce of the future through Fuel Change programme

SOSE and local industry have paired with business transformation enterprise Fuel Change to celebrate the completion of a skills development programme focussed on Net Zero solutions for local businesses.

Over the last four months, teams of 16 to 25 year olds made up of apprentices, graduates and young people have been taking part in the Fuel Change Challenge programme, sponsored by South of Scotland Enterprise.

The programme has involved the young people working on creating solutions to real sustainability challenges set by industry, culminating in a showcase event on Thursday 9 March in Dumfries to bring the participants, employers, industry and public sector together.

As well as celebrate the success of the programme, the focus of the day was to determine whether the next generation’s solutions and ideas can be turned into a practical reality for businesses in the South of Scotland.

Five challenges

  • Logistics (set by BSW timber)
  • Housing and communities (set by CSY Architects)
  • Food and farming (set by Food from Farming)
  • The energy transition (set by Natural Power)
  • Fashion and textiles (set by Alex Begg, and Scott & Charters)

With 92million tonnes of clothing waste landfill every year, Alex Begg, weavers of luxury accessories who operate mills in Hawick and Ayr, set a challenge to improve sustainability in the textile industry.

Barbara Birnie, Alex Begg’s HR Director of People and Culture, said:

“There are two main sustainability issues facing the industry are that waste is hard to recycle and the throwaway culture of fast fashion.

“We thought through the Fuel Change Challenge we could get a team of our young employees to look at some solutions to these problems.

“We are dedicated to ensuring our business is sustainable and that all of our products are ethical and traceable at every step of the process.

“We encouraged our young employees to take part in the challenge, and drawing the team of six from both our mills gave them a chance for cross-business cooperation and development that we never had a chance to explore before.

“It really gave the team a better understanding of the business, our values and how and why we are trying to operate to as sustainable a model as possible.

“We would absolutely take part in Fuel Change again – it really has helped develop our younger team members in a way that we just wouldn’t have the capability of doing within the business.”

Martin Valenti, Director of Net Zero, Nature and Entrepreneurship at South of Scotland Enterprise, said:

“It was great to see businesses, organisations and young people across the South of Scotland work closely together in recent months on the Fuel Change Challenge, coming up with innovative ideas on how we can decarbonise various industries.

“We want the South to lead the way and help Scotland reach the goal of becoming Net Zero by 2045. To do so, we need today’s young people to be given the chance to develop their skills and influence the Net Zero agenda, which this programme has successfully managed to do.”

Jen Tempany, Chief Operating Officer of Fuel Change, said:

“It is fantastic to be working with SOSE and local industry partners to bring the pioneering Fuel Change Challenge to the South of Scotland.

“The event saw the participants collaborate with industry and public sector experts to take their Net Zero solutions closer to implantation.

“Many businesses see sustainability as a cost - we have proven that it is an opportunity.

“Having founded Fuel Change in 2020, we have already worked with over 2,000 participants and established partnerships with 150 organisations to solve decarbonisation challenges and unleash talent within the next generation.

“It is 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 UK business - big or small - to engage with our programmes.”

Participant, Rebecca Randall from Aitken Turnbull, added:

“It is good for young people to get involved in Fuel Change because it is more than just reading from a textbook. It is about being equipped with these tools and being let loose to see how they can be applied and see what you can do with them. 

“It is about actively getting involved and building skills that you can apply within a workforce. 

“I have always struggled with confidence and being heard. This has been a great way to help with that, and it is definitely out of my comfort zone.

“It is something I've really got involved in and felt really passionate about. It has been so worth it and I want the others to have that opportunity. 

“I think this programme will definitely influence my career because I've realised this is something I do feel really passionate about.”