Green jobs not just for STEM Grads

Green jobs fair tackles myths & misconceptions of climate change careers

Students at this year's Green Careers Fair nibbled edible crickets, cuddled plush pink octopi, and met industry experts for advice on landing a job in the green sector.

The Green Careers Fair is part of the two-week Green Careers Festival which brings together students, grads, alumni and recruiters to explore sustainability and climate solutions in industry. 

The fair was attended by organisations from insect farmers looking to transform the global food supply chain, to sustainability consultants supporting wind farm and solar panel projects across the world. 

The students themselves were equally diverse in their interests, from technical backgrounds such as chemistry and engineering to policy-minded environmental land economists, yet all were joined by a common interest in the environment.

I want to do something that helps the planet,” said Ben de la Court, a chemist studying at Downing College. 

"I was initially taught about climate change in the second grade…but I didn’t realise that you could get a job in it."

Phoebe McElligott, an environmental policy student at Girton College

"It’s difficult to know how to get into climate resilience...it feels like I don’t have the right ‘engineering’ background to get into decarbonisation."

Shumona Nath, a fourth-year Earth scientist at Murray Edwards College

Liz Robinson at the Environment Agency (EA) said "[You need to have] a love of the environment, but you don’t have to have a degree in environmental sciences."

Robinson works as the Team Leader for the Land and Water Team in Huntington, England for EA and summarised her job as “looking after air, land, and water…we’re there to help protect the environment for people and wildlife.” 

"We have people working for us who’ve come from the Navy, ex-teachers, pharmacists, as well as recent graduates,” said Robinson.  

Lizzy Dray graduated from Geography at Durham last summer before taking on her role as a Graduate Consultant at AECOM. AECOM is an infrastructure consultancy firm which recently announced its plans to hire hundreds of new employees in its Environment, Water and Energy (EWE) business this year. 

“I was interested in the environment, but wasn’t sure what to do and I stumbled upon this job…you feel like you’re making a difference when you see your work in the news,” said Lizzy. 

Lizzy’s main advice for students was to “come to things like this [(the Green Careers Fair)] and speak to people, find out what they do day-to-day."

Lizzy said, "don’t stress if you don’t know what you want to do. All degrees have transferable skills!

Lizzy Dray, Graduate Consultant at AECOM

Lizzy Dray, Graduate Consultant at AECOM

"You don’t have to have a degree in environmental sciences"

Liz Robinson, Team Leader for the Land and Water Team, at the Environment Agency (EA)

Similar to Lizzy, Lydia Tew is a young professional working as a Graduate Consultant. Lydia works in the Sustainability team at Max Fordham LLP, after graduating with an MPhil at Cambridge in Architecture and Urban Studies in 2022.

Lydia’s advice was “don’t be deterred by thinking you need to be technical…you just need to be interested in the environment and sustainability.” 

You can’t underestimate soft skills,” said Jon Cooper, who studied a PhD in Chemistry at Oxford and worked in research and development at Johnson Matthey for almost 20 years before he took “a small step into environmental consultancy…which turned out to be a big step.” 

Over the past few years he’s been working for the consulting firm Environmental Resources Management (ERM) on low-carbon energy projects such as district heating, heat pumps, and developing decarbonisation strategies across entire businesses.

His advice on preparing for the working world?

“Go and be a secretary of the tennis club, or join your JCR committee…do a lot of listening and communicating, and show initiative! We’re looking for someone who can keep multiple plates spinning at once,” said Cooper.

His top five attributes for new candidates:

  1. Enthusiasm for (and belief in) what we do
  2. Recognise that you have a lot to learn
  3. Demonstrate you're a team player
  4. Notice trends and understand data
  5. Be adaptable

As the fair was finishing off, Josie Alderman, a senior talent partner at green energy company Octopus, offered a final piece of advice for students worrying about the future.

Apply to a lot of things, and keep your options open.” 

The Green Careers Festival 2024 began on January 29th and runs until February 9th.

Upcoming events include:

See the full list of upcoming Green Careers Festival events on the Careers Service here, and our summary of Cambridge Zero’s career-focussed lent term here

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Interested students can keep up to date with these and other opportunities with Cambridge Zero via our student mailing list.

Published 06 February 2023

Images: Ellie Austin

The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Cambridge Zero is the University of Cambridge’s ambitious climate change initiative, harnessing the power of research to tackle climate change at one of the top global research universities in the world.