Thames Water inspires next generation of 'Green Skills' students

By Barrie Hudson - 8 April 2021

BusinessEducation

Students gained insights into careers and green roles at Thames Water as part of Speakers for Schools' Green Skills Week.

The company, whose area of service includes Swindon, hosted more than 70 students aged 14 to 17 for a day of virtual work experience.

The young people were introduced  to to the company’s essential water and wastewater services, and given practical experience of its work to protect the environment and meet its target of net zero carbon emissions by 2030.   

Green Skills Week, run by education charity Speakers for Schools, aims to introduce young people aged 11 and over to the skills needed to combat the effects of climate change, and for key industries such as utilities, construction and technology to adapt and use green technology.  

Students from London, the Thames Valley and as far away as Newcastle tuned into the Thames Water Google Meet for an opportunity to quiz employees and be introduced to environmental and science careers at Thames Water. 

Liz Banks, education manager at Thames Water, said: “Green Skills Week has been a fantastic way to show young people the wide range of careers at Thames Water and help them understand how the water industry can play its part in the fight against climate change. 

“Protecting and enhancing the environment is extremely important to us, and we have committed to doing all we can to find new and innovative ways to achieve our net zero ambitions over the next 10 years. 

"To enable us to reach our goals we need to inspire young people to choose careers which can help us protect the environment and cut our emissions so we can leave our planet in a better place for future generations.”

A total of 11 volunteers from the water company shared their experiences with the students, and led activities exploring urban flooding and sustainable drainage, and how the company is increasing biodiversity at its waste and water treatment works through tree planting and wetland creation. 

Craig Boorman, a Thames Water volunteer who works in wastewater asset management, said: “This was a great opportunity to talk to a very engaged group of young people about the environment and sustainable drainage, and they were all keen to hear about the Green Skills we have at Thames Water. 

"Being able to offer them insight into what a green skills career might look like was a very rewarding experience.”

Kathryn Pendelberry, a Thames Water systems planner, said: “I really enjoyed discussing wastewater and sustainable drainage with the students; they asked inquisitive questions and made brilliant analytical observations. Their ‘green skills’ are starting off strong.”

Thames Water is planning to deliver 10 virtual work experience sessions on various topics over the next 12 months.

Its 'Poo Power' waste recycling, together with wind and solar, currently generates around a quarter of the company’s electricity needs, saving around £40 million in energy costs each year. 

Last December, the company produced enough renewable electricity across 24 sewage works to power the equivalent of more than 110,000 homes, or 15 per cent more than was being produced three months previously.

Thames Water is also partnering with Kingston Council to create England's first sewage-powered domestic heating scheme at its Hogsmill sewage works and is due to announce its roadmap to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030 later this year. 

Before the coronavirus lockdown, Thames Water operated its comprehensive education programme from seven specialist centres based at its sites and through visits to schools by speakers.  

Over the last five years, 100,000 schoolchildren have been given an insight into how Thames Water deals with clean water and waste for millions of customers. The company is now providing online education and careers talks to schools and colleges and hopes to start visiting schools again later this year.

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