Reflections from Youth Focused Panel at COP 27

By Whitney Pailman, 19 December 2022

On November 10th, 2022 I had the opportunity to join the ‘Investing in Youth for a Just Energy Transition’ panel at the SDG 7 Pavilion at COP 27 hosted by SEforAll, in Sharm el Sheikh. The session organised by Student Energy and the Carbon Trust brought together young leaders and practitioners who are actively working with youth in the energy sector and are building the skills and expertise needed to achieve universal energy access and a just energy transition. The panel was moderated by Grace Young from Student Energy and included Transforming Energy Access colleague Tanya Rahman from the Carbon Trust, Vaughn-Xavier Jameer from Student Energy and Nicholas Dehod from the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). The session drew attention to the need for supporting youth to actively participate in the energy access sector and programmes that are effective at capacity building and training for youth to excel in the energy sector.

Grace Young, Tanya Rahman, Whitney Pailman, Nicholas Dehod, Vaughn-Xavier Jameer

Setting the scene for the need to support youth to actively participate in the energy access sector and clean energy transitions, Nicholas Dehod highlighted the importance of carrying through and implementing commitments, in line with the broader spirit of COP27 being the COP of implementation.

“Commitments are one thing but how are we actually going to rapidly accelerate the deployment of existing technologies, how are we going to ensure that we have the demonstration of emerging technologies required to get us to Net Zero by 2050? Sometimes lost in the discussion is that we actually have to have the skilled people to do that”. Nicholas Dehod

Nicholas further framed the unique opportunity for youth job creation and the need to proactively create these opportunities for the next generation to take ownership of the energy technologies and systems they will inherit.

“The situation we have at the moment is a once in a generation opportunity to create millions of jobs for young people and we need to think about it very systematically – we need people that can install wind and solar, policy makers that understand the technologies”. Nickolas Dehod

The session highlighted the importance the Transforming Energy Access platform and programmes like the Energy Access Talent Initiative and the Transforming Energy Access Learning Partnership (TEA-LP) for developing multidisciplinary skills and expertise needed to advance SDG 7 and the pipeline of between graduates and placements.

“At Carbon Trust, we’re working with the UK government, FCDO, on a multi-year programme called, Transforming Energy Access and it’s looking at the whole cycle, working on tech innovation, skills building, demonstrating business models. So, there’s a particular strand around skills and employment opportunities, working with young people and women”. Tanya Rahman

Tanya further highlighted how partnerships were key to implementing these programmes in TEA phase one and would continue to be key within phase two. These include partnerships with the IKEA Foundation, World Bank Energy team, universities, employers, private sector and clean energy transition companies. She further emphasised the role of local partners and local knowledge for successfully implementing and scaling these initiatives.

“There’s one particular strand called the Energy Access Talent Initiative and what this focuses on is local knowledge – so we’re working with two excellent partners African Management Institute and Shortlist Professionals, and they have a very extensive grounded knowledge of where we’re working in different African countries from graduate placement to mid-level training and mid-level management support.” Tanya Rahman

Reflecting on the results Tanya explained:

”We’ve had some very good case studies – over 95% of women completed their first-year placement were offered further job opportunities. We’re looking to scale this up for the second phase.” Tanya Rahman

Expanding on the programmes in the TEA platform mentioned by Tanya, I had the opportunity to share our work in the TEA-LP and the role of equity and inclusion for developing polices to invest in capacity building programmes.

“The Transforming Energy Access Learning Partnership is a programme within the TEA platform – and that’s the skills building arm. The focus is really to develop the human capacity and skills needed to achieve modern, reliable, affordable and meaningful energy access and to take forward innovations.” Whitney Pailman

One of the aspects highlighted was the increase in the number of universities and geographic scope:

“TEA phase 2 is something we’re really excited about and the scale up of the TEA Learning Partnership will really look at expanding both the geographic reach but also the number of universities reached. We would like to add an additional 20 to the partnership, that is spread across Africa and the Indo- Pacific region”. Whitney Pailman

On the aspect of developing policy recommendations for equitable energy access programmes it’s important to consider it from a geographic inclusivity perspective, looking at the urban rural divide but also turning attention to settings of displacement. It’s furthermore important to consider gender inclusion and improved representation and diversity in the sector as well as ensuring financial inclusion and accessibility to education and training opportunities.

The session further emphasised the vast opportunities for young people within the energy sector and the role of mentorship and internship opportunities as part of the continuum of support needed. It also emphasised the role of innovation and entrepreneurship as engines for job creation in the sector, more support for ‘research into use’ and the innovative catalytic funding programmes needed to support this.

A key takeaway from the session is that the energy sector is a space that requires multi-disciplinary specialisations, diverse backgrounds, perspectives and interests. Vaughn-Xavier Jameer emphasised the powerful role mentorship can play in shaping one’s career path and trajectory with the energy sector and that the energy sector is a space that youth from all backgrounds and disciplines should feel welcome in.

“Empower youth, let them know that they have the potential, it doesn’t matter where you are in your energy journey, it doesn’t matter your background – energy is in everything, every sector – agriculture, health, it’s not just for Engineers. I have a voice, I can change the future, I am someone with power”. Vaughn-Xavier Jameer

“There’s a wide variety of opportunity and the space is ready for everybody to come on board. The opportunity is here”. Whitney Pailman

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