May 2024

Educating for a sustainable future: Insights from a net zero educator

Alexandra Brightman

In a world confronted with climate change and sustainability challenges, educating the next generation has never been more important.

Alexandra Brightman, Energy Futures & Net Zero Educator at Northern Gas Networks, recently spoke at the IGEM Gas Utilisation Conference, bringing passion and expertise to the challenge of educating tomorrow's engineers. 

With over nine years of experience in various roles within NGN, including spearheading the Hydrogen Home Project, she now focuses on engaging schools and educational facilities across the region.

She began her talk by emphasising the importance of education within the energy industry, delving into the challenges faced and the strategies to overcome them. From the lack of awareness and understanding surrounding topics like net zero, to the negative influence of social media on the gas industry, she discussed how tomorrow's engineers will be crucial to continue work in the gas industry, in areas like hydrogen and renewable energy. 

Net zero, a term often used without true comprehension, was a focal point of the session. She highlighted the importance of empowering students to grasp the significance of climate change. Beyond information, Alexandra sees her role as a facilitator, guiding students towards more informed decisions and action.

Empowering tomorrow's engineers: Challenges and solutions

During the discussion, Alexandra emphasised the vital role of keeping the gas industry alive. This includes raising awareness among young people in education about the gas sector and the opportunities for a long and fulfilling career dedicated to supplying energy to the UK. She emphasised the industry's collective responsibility to maintain a positive image and actively engage in community education, addressing any misconceptions or myths.

To inspire the next generation of gas engineers, several strategies can be employed:

  1. Promote career prospects: Share uplifting stories and first-hand experiences within the industry to your network, highlighting its current state and the exciting prospects it holds.

  2. Exemplify values: Represent the gas sector with integrity and professionalism during projects and community interactions, serving as ambassadors who embody the industry's best qualities.

  3. Cultivate STEM subject interest: Foster enthusiasm for STEM subjects and related careers among young individuals, showcasing the diverse pathways and opportunities available within the gas industry and encouraging them to pursue these fields.

Reflecting on the broader subject of education, Alexandra highlighted government initiatives aimed at integrating sustainability into education. She also applauded the Climate Ambassador scheme and other support services that equip learners with the tools to address environmental challenges. As an advocate for industry engagement, she stressed the need for collaboration in bridging the gap between education and real-world applications.

It's crucial that we collaborate as an industry, to develop an understanding and heightened awareness of careers in gas.

Alexandra Brightman

Energy Futures & Net Zero Educator at NGN

Call to action: Our role in shaping a sustainable future

Alexandra's talk concluded with a call to action, urging educators to stay informed about the different career paths for gas and sustainability and how these are adapting in the face of evolving challenges. With climate change posing an existential threat, educators like Alexandra play a crucial role in engaging with the engineers of tomorrow. Through their efforts, they not only shape young minds but also inspire a collective commitment to a sustainable future.

Watch the full session here: Educating the next generation; Challenges in the gas industry, Alexandra Brightman, NGN