EVERY year, the 12th of August arrives with a dual purpose – it is a celebration and a call to action, marking International Youth Day.

This year the theme resonates profoundly with me, and indeed, with the world at large – Green Skills for Youth: Towards a Sustainable World. The day, initiated by the United Nations back in 1999, has since its inception ventured into diverse areas of concern, from mental health to civic engagement. This year, the world’s gaze turns towards the need for a transition to a more sustainable, green economy.

The United Nations’ choice of this year’s theme is a poignant acknowledgement of the pressing ecological challenges we face and the indispensable role our youth will play in meeting these. Green skills, becoming increasingly crucial, are the key drivers of a sustainable transition to a green economy. This transition carries with it the potential for dual gains – battling climate change and protecting our natural environment, while simultaneously creating the possibility of millions of new jobs.

However, without these necessary skills, these emerging opportunities risk being out of reach for our young people. Thus, the UN’s emphasis on green skills represents a strategic decision aimed at ensuring that our youth are empowered to lead the urgent transformation we need, harnessing the green economy’s potential, and safeguarding our planet for future generations.

READ MORE: Ellie Gomersall: Backlash against government plans for heat pumps is utterly bizarre

As a mother and a grandmother, this theme hits home for me. I remember my youth of endless summer days and a future that seemed a distant haze. Now, in the rear-view mirror of time, I realise the urgency in paving a clear path and arming our youth with the tools they need for the future. The passing of time is rapid and frighteningly so.

Delving into the core of the matter, we need to examine some cold, hard facts. The International Labour Organisation posits that a successful green transition could potentially create 8.4 million jobs for young people by 2030. Conversely, it also points out a looming skills gap, with an estimated 60% of young people lacking the requisite green skills to excel in this new economic landscape. This stark contrast highlights the dire need for targeted initiatives to bridge this gap.

This is where Scotland shines as a beacon of hope. Our rugged landscapes, as beautiful as they are, aren’t just our natural heritage; they serve as a testament to our commitment to environmental stewardship. This commitment is deeply ingrained in our policies, our economy, and the vision we harbour for our future generations. After spending time as a member on the Rural Affairs and Islands committee, I see just how imperative it is that we ensure good management and planning for our land and planet.

The National: The Scottish Government

The Scottish Government, recognising this urgent need, has taken bold strides towards preparing our young people for this future. The National Strategy for Economic Transformation underscores the paramount importance of upskilling and reskilling both the current and future workforce. The plan is an ambitious and multi-pronged approach with public, private and third-sector partnerships collaborating to equip our workforce with the ability to capitalise on emerging economic opportunities.

READ MORE: Allan Dorans: We need balanced media reporting on the safety of ScotRail staff

Scotland’s Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan is a testament to this commitment, designed to align our skills system with the business requirements essential for achieving net-zero emissions. The Green Jobs Workforce Academy, another innovative initiative, is paving the way for our youth to build a future in eco-conscious sectors.

A remarkable embodiment of our commitment to this cause is the Just Transition Fund. This £500 million project underpins eco-friendly, sustainable projects across Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, and Moray. The initiatives it supports are as varied as they are impactful – energy conservation measures, green jobs, community gardens, sustainable travel, and restoration of greenspaces. It’s an investment not just in our environment but in the skills and competencies of our youth to spearhead these initiatives.

So, as we gear up to celebrate International Youth Day, we must also acknowledge and appreciate the steps we’re taking to secure our young people’s future. The day recognises the promise our youth hold – a promise to construct a world that values its natural resources, champions equality, and considers green skills as a necessity, not an extravagance.

Throughout my journey as a mother and grandmother, I’ve often found myself reflecting on the kind of world we’re leaving behind for our posterity. The vision I have for them is crystal clear – a future where they tread lightly on the earth, breathe freely, and coexist harmoniously with nature. A world where they are equipped with the skills to sustain and nurture it. A green economy is something which I see embedded within Scotland’s wellbeing economy, one that prioritises our living environment and those that live in it rather than fiscal gains.

READ MORE: Let’s drill into the facts on Sunak’s oil and gas claims

International Youth Day is more than a date on our calendars; it’s a pledge to our young people, a promise of a greener future, and a tribute to their boundless potential. It’s a day that recognises the importance of each step we take in nurturing, educating, and empowering our youth, shaping the future that belongs not just to us, but to our children, and their children after them.

We have no idea what future jobs will look like, and there are thousands of jobs we haven’t even considered yet. Children in schools right now will be doing jobs in the future that don’t exist yet. It is a frightening prospect, but only if we don’t plan to ensure they have skills to innovate and prioritise the needs of the people and planet.

Let’s recognise this day with the determination to build a future we can all be proud of. To leave behind a legacy that every summer day is enjoyed, however fleeting, and every investment we made was a foundation for wellbeing. That’s a legacy I believe we all can and should aspire to leave.