Local young people chart path for a greener future

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Students and staff standing next to each other
Photo caption: Scott Robertson, Lewis Clinkenbeard and Angus Cockanye from Dunblane High School, Sara McDermid, University of Stirling, Cllr Ellen Forson, Leader of Clackmannanshire Council, Sarah McCourt, Naomi Goya-Brown, and Arika Patton, from Dollar Academy.

A group of young people in Stirling and Clackmannanshire have become the latest to take part in a flagship initiative to develop the skills, understanding and perspectives necessary to thrive in a green economy. 21 high school students from seven schools are participating in the 2022/23 Young Pathfinders Programme, which launched on 15 November 2022 at Forth Valley College in Alloa. They become the Programme’s second cohort, after the pilot phase saw the participation of 12 students from four schools in Clackmannanshire.

 The Young Pathfinders Programme is led by the University of Stirling and funded as part of Scotland’s International Environment Centre, a major investment delivered through the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal. The Environment Centre will drive the creation of a net-zero regional economy across the Forth Valley, unlocking new opportunities for employment and skills development, as Scotland makes the transition to cleaner, greener ways of working. The Centre is funded through a combined investment of £22m from the UK and Scottish Governments, and additional funding from the University of Stirling and Clackmannanshire Council.

 With Scotland committed to reaching Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, the next generation will be instrumental in ensuring that this ambitious target will be achieved. As part of the Programme, participants will undertake a series of activities encouraging them to engage in sustainable thinking and develop their own green solutions to local and global environmental problems.

Graduates from the programme will be able to demonstrate enhanced environmental awareness, knowledge of ‘green skills’ and green career pathways, and an understanding of regional green entrepreneurship and enterprise. The programme also places an emphasis on developing employability skills, including teamworking, leadership, communication, and problem solving, with the Pathfinders applying and demonstrating these skills through an end-of-programme, group project. 

The seven schools participating in the 2022/23 cohort are Alloa Academy, Alva Academy, Dollar Academy, Dunblane High School, Lornshill Academy, St Modan’s High School, and Stirling High School.

The Pathfinders were joined at the launch event by Councillor Ellen Forson, Leader of Clackmannanshire Council.

Clackmannanshire Council Leader Cllr Ellen Forson said: "As the climate emergency worsens and addressing climate issues becomes more urgent, it is vital that local government invest more time and money in tackling climate change. Clackmannanshire Council is committed to a greener future, and I am proud to see our young people taking a proactive approach to understanding the challenges faced in tackling climate change so that they can thrive in a green economy."

Rebecca Pankhurst, SIEC Manager at University of Stirling, added: “The next generation will be impacted by climate change like no other. That’s why it’s essential that young people are supported to develop the skills and insights to enable them to thrive in a climate-changed world. Young Pathfinders Programme – now in its second year – will empower a group of young people from across Stirling and Clackmannanshire to think and act greener, making decisions that are genuinely sustainable while developing the skills to take these ideas forward.”

The launch of the 2022/23 cohort was also welcomed by Cllr Chris Kane, Leader of Stirling Council.

Cllr Chris Kane said: “Young people are leading the fight in the climate crisis so it’s important to harness that enthusiasm and give it the platform to grow even further with the Young Pathfinders Programme.

“Combining that with a project like Scotland’s International Environment Centre encapsulates the aims of the City Region Deal perfectly – creating sustainable growth and learning while building skills for the future. It’s great to see.”

 The Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal is a £90.2m investment from the UK Government and Scottish Government in innovation and infrastructure that will drive inclusive economic growth throughout the region. Regional partners, including Clackmannanshire Council, Stirling Council, and the University of Stirling, will invest up to £123.8m, resulting in a Deal worth more than £214m, to be delivered over the next 10 to 15 years.