Almost a quarter (23%) of young people aged 15-18 have said they’re likely to consider pursuing a career combating climate change, inspired by Greta Thunberg’s ‘Listen to the Science’ message.
More than half of the UK’s 15-18 year olds said they thought climate change was the biggest problem facing the world today (58%), while 77% of those responding to the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) survey said they had been influenced by Greta Thunberg.
The RSC is now urging educators not to miss out on the opportunity to boost the number of pupils studying towards STEM careers, with 26% of young people saying scientists have the biggest role to play in addressing climate change.
Launching the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Making the Difference careers campaign, Sarah Robertson, Director of Education and Professional Practice, said: “It’s incredibly encouraging to see so many young people keen to consider a career which can help tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems – and that it was Greta Thunberg, a young person herself, who has inspired this interest.
“We all must capitalise on young people’s interests in addressing the climate crisis and demonstrate how they themselves can make the difference through informed career choices.
“We’re all aware of the ambition to increase the number of people studying STEM subjects at university, college and through apprenticeships. With 82% of respondents to the survey saying that chemistry and the chemical sciences is important to addressing climate change, for example, there is an opportunity to fulfil that ambition – but only if we provide better support and inspiration for the next generation of climate scientists.”
The survey of more than 1,000 15-18 year olds also revealed that 78% believe chemistry plays an important role in tackling declining natural resources, 53% in tackling hunger, and 88% in tackling health and disease issues.
In response to the findings, the Royal Society of Chemistry’s new campaign showcases the vibrant and varied career paths open to those with chemistry skills that many may be unaware of.
“In launching Making the Difference, we are aiming to inspire the next generation of scientists by showing them the true scale of what they could achieve – and in the process demonstrating that the job goes far beyond the image of simply standing in a lab, but in changing the world for the better.”
As part of the campaign, RSC is developing materials for parents and schools to help them better support young people when making their career decisions.
Celine Moreira, an Analytical Technician at Polymateria Limited, is one of the young chemists featured in the campaign, looking at how her job is helping tackle the world’s plastic pollution problem.
She said: “We are living in an era known as the “Plastic Age” and to imagine a world without it just doesn’t seem possible due to its versatility and cheap costs.
“Through many campaigns, marches and documentaries, we have all been made aware of the impacts the accumulation of plastics is having on our wildlife and beautiful natural environment. In a society that has such a high rate of consumption it’s hard to find another material that can cope with such demand – that is where chemistry has a big role to play.
“While some may struggle to see its relevance or think it old-fashioned, chemistry is of vital importance today and offers many career options that enable you to make a positive change to the world.”
You can find out more about Making the Difference by clicking here.