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Simon Kennedy: The future is ours

Simon Kennedy is Strategic Environmental Planning Officer for the Partnership for South Hampshire.

As an ‘old’ early careers professional I have had the benefit of watching society’s understanding of climate change and sustainability grow and evolve over the last 30 years. What is abundantly clear is that early career professionals often come into the workplace armed with a much greater understanding of the impact of development on our environment than those who undertook their formative education before a full understanding of the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss was readily available. Without utilising and building on the understanding of young and early careers professionals we will never be able to ensure that we are meeting the needs of the current generation, let alone future generations.

My absolute belief that ‘climate aware’ early career planners are the ones who will build a more sustainable future is why I jumped at the chance to take part in the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) 'Built Environment Professionals of the Future' event. The event brought together a group of early career professionals across the built environment.

The aim of the event was to help the built environment leaders of today to understand:

  • What skills will the climate-aware Built Environment and Infrastructure professionals of the future need to have?
  • How will these professions need to change and adapt during the working lives of today’s young professionals to meet net zero goals?
  • What are the barriers to these changes, and what is required from today’s industry leaders to bring about these changes?
  • How will higher education in the Built Environment and Infrastructure fields need to evolve to enable these future professionals to get the skills they need?

As always in a room full of early career professionals the conversation was robust, insightful, and full of hope for the future. Amongst the many issues discussed there was clear recognition for the need for a holistic approach between organisations, the relevance of understanding and evaluating big data for better outcomes, and a requirement for a strong policy framework for a sustainable future from both the private and public sectors. Clips from the meeting between early career professionals are being shown in the COP26 UKGBC virtual pavilion here

“Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”

Bruntland Commission, 1987

We live in a rapidly changing world as the realities of un-sustainable growth become ever more apparent. We need to find ways in which we truly balance the needs of the environment with the needs of growth. The reality is that the early career planners of today are the only ones equipped to ‘level up’ the world to a more sustainable future.

It is up to the leaders of today to recognise the understanding and skills that early career professionals already have and build on those to make absolutely sure we have the future that the generations to come deserve. Already we are seeing people increasingly make investment and job decisions based on environmental credentials and many organisations are starting to realise that if they don’t engage with sustainable solutions then their future is in doubt.

But ultimately early career planners are the ones with the insight as to how to deliver sustainable change, we are the ones that can make it all fit together and find a greater balance in the process. It is up to us to truly #BuildTheWorldWeNeed.

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