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It's not easy being green, but it could change your life - Michael Steel

23 February 2023

Change has never been something I have feared and in fact, I’ve seen it as a constant positive in my life. The world around us is changing and the social conscience conversation is evolving as each year ticks by

By Michael Steel, Managing director, Kiwi Education

“Change what you do, or how you live, every ten years because the greatest obstacle to success isn't failure; it's success.” Words to that effect have stuck with me since I was a 19 year-old apprentice. Change has never been something I have feared and in fact, I’ve seen it as a constant positive in my life. The world around us is changing and the social conscience conversation is evolving as each year ticks by.

When I founded Kiwi Education in 2013, the world was quite different. The needs of the country and the community were different and the conversations around “green” and the environment were a whisper in comparison to where we are today. As a start-up training provider based in Southampton, we started forming relationships with employers and learners, delivering apprenticeships in sectors which were familiar to us. As we moved through the years from subcontractor to a prime provider, the needs of the city and region changed. Learners were yearning for new skills which linked in with the green conversation. “How can I make a difference while I am at work?” one learner asked me in 2016. It was the embryonic question that got me thinking about issues that were far bigger than just recycling paper within the workplace.

Running a local business and employing people comes with responsibilities and countless matters to consider: from how people travel to work, to appointments to see learners and of course how information is stored. As a provider, we moved over to being completely electronic with paperwork in 2017. Everything from contracts to learner visit progress reports and agendas for meetings -Paperless. However, we are striving to do more with a planned rollout of electric cars for trainers, free charging at the office and ideas such as a city beehive on the office roof.

Personally, my own attitudes and desires towards climate change and becoming net zero have evolved and changed. I am really worried about the environment. I live in a coastal city and have concerns that one day, my home may end up under water. Watching TV documentaries on rising sea levels and the polar caps melting had a huge impact on me. I remember watching Frozen Planet on my birthday in 2019 and feeling a mixture of emotions about what was happening to our world. I went to bed that night feeling helpless, and with a knot of anxiety in my stomach I had never had before. “What small steps can I take to make a difference?” In 2019, I decided to stop eating red meat, invest in an electric car and actively think about how Kiwi could lead the way in upskilling young people in green skills. Small steps, but big changes in my life.

I made the decision to start making changes across all areas, not only in my personal life. To manoeuvre Kiwi Education into delivering green skills and apprenticeships to make others feel they can make a difference, too. Qualifications in energy efficiency and sustainability, energy efficiency and sustainability and waste and recycling. Every UK job has the potential to be green, according to a new independent, expert report published in July 2022 and backed by the UK government.

I started to log my travel activities to offset a trip I had decided to embark on in March of this year…Antarctica. From when I was a child, I’ve always had a connection with the seventh continent. I want to see for myself what is happening there. I want to speak to experts who have boots on the ground and gain an insight into the direct impact of climate change. Making personal sacrifices to plan, pay for and prepare for this trip, I fully expect it to be life changing for me and to give me the perspective to return to Southampton with a fire burning to drive the change needed.

Our Kiwi green journey has just begun - in the year of our ten year anniversary.

The views expressed in Think Further publications do not necessarily reflect those of AoC or NCFE.