You Know the NHS. What About the PHS?

14 Mar 2024

Authors: Sean Mcquaid, Ron Daniel, Jenny Garnham and Dominic Skinner

Transition through Inclusion and Diversity for Equity Community (TIDE Community)

The number of green jobs required by 2050 keeps on growing. One recent estimate is 1.2 million in England. Compare that with the NHS which has 1.3 million full-time equivalent workers. Almost every child will tell you what jobs there are in the National Health Service (NHS) but they are very unlikely to name even one job in the Planet Health Service (PHS); and yet TIDE can identify over 500 science related careers.

Here is a nascent industry which will be as big as the NHS; and where we can give the under-served in our community the opportunity to grow with it and make it all the way to the boardroom; i.e. a Just Transition.

It is all about getting the pipeline right, and TIDE Community proposes that it can be done by awarding full scholarships. Just as the UK did for almost every student during the last century.

The pipeline

We recently completed a random survey of C-suite executives from thirteen well-known companies covering four sectors of critical importance to achieving Net Zero. The table below shows how they break down with respect to highest achieved educational levels, and representation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people and women. Of the 27 individuals reviewed, four are women and one comes from the BAME community.

C-Suite: Highest Educational Attainment and BAME Individuals and Women

For many of the industries tackling net zero or the energy transition, representation is low for BAME and women. You can delve deeper and identify under-representation for many other under-served communities like white men from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

These differences cannot be fixed overnight. They are systemic and start with a poorly representative pipeline of young professionals coming into the industry. We say professionals because it is also clear that the minimum qualification, at least for this sample, is a Bachelor’s degree. If we want fair representation in the “C-suite room where it happens” we need at least fair representation in the pipeline of young graduates coming through.

A diverse and inclusive C-Suite will improve the chances of diverse and inclusive access to all green jobs; part of creating a Just Transition.

How big must the pipeline be?

EngineeringUK provides forecasts for various sectors in the table below.


Even this detailed work is an underestimation since a number of sectors have still to calculate their job requirements (see for example Circular Economy).

Globally, Judy Ling Wong, Honorary President of the Black Environment Network states the world requires 65 million new green jobs, and “green collar jobs” are going to hit 300 million.

If you are reading this …

Then you are most likely an informed individual who understands the tremendous opportunities net zero provides for our young people. You will most likely tell family and friends and they can act on it. By definition, those under-served groups will not be fortunate enough to meet you. There needs to be a national plan to educate students about climate change and what they can do: in their daily life, in their careers and as citizens. The National Climate Education Action Plan is attempting to do this.

It’s all about money

The table below shows how, while the percentage of those lucky enough to go to university increased, the financial burden on each student also increased.

Those from the last century could make the most of an incredible privilege of the state paying for their education and maintenance. The only barrier being to achieve your A-level grades.

Today, many people will forego university because of the expense. Yet their value to the nation as graduates is significant, making it worthwhile for the government to invest in them rather than seeing them take up lower skilled occupations.  For example, at least one-third of the 34% increase in labour productivity between 1994 and 2005 can be attributed to the accumulation of graduate skills in the labour force (according to BIS Research Paper No. 110).

There are scholarships but not enough and they are generally for small amounts financially. About 250 scholarships relevant to Net Zero are posted on 70% of the scholarships provide less than £2000 per year over a three-year course. Only one scholarship gave £60K over three years which would be enough to live like a last century student; £10K for maintenance and £10K for fees per year. A very modest existence.

Net zero degrees are of national importance

Just like doctors and nurses fixing sick people, we need net zero graduates to fix a sick planet. There are 1.3 million FTE staff in the National Health Service (NHS). In comparison, 1.2 million green jobs will be required by 2050 in England alone, for what could be regarded as a Planet Health Service (PHS). They will be involved in over 500 high value net zero careers. The figure below breaks out some of the net zero sectors and disciplines. For example, a person could spend a lifetime mastering civil engineering in the nuclear industry.

These jobs are of national importance to combat a stealth enemy in a war that could destroy the world as we know it. If the enemy was another nation state and an immediate threat, we would not hesitate to invest in our youth with scholarships in what was required to win the war. It is only because the consequences of losing to global warming are so far in the future and we literally can’t see the enemy, that we don’t equate the two perils. Arguably, global warming will kill more than any war and reverse the good of all the lives saved by the NHS.

A great opportunity exists to redress social inequalities by using full scholarships while also building a green economy that can be exported to the rest of the world.

How to re-build a grant ethos for the PHS

TIDE Community’s Roadmap advocates the following.

  1. Bring together as many professional institutes as possible that have a stake in achieving net zero to provide a common voice.
  2. Bring pressure on the government to pledge matching grants to industry provided funds.
  3. Through the institutes, approach individual companies for contributions to a scholarship fund.
  4. Work with the National Climate Education Action Plan to make school students aware that global warming is not a hopeless case and that the solution is in their hands.
  5. Offer scholarships through the most deprived schools for net zero science courses.
  6. The institutes will define which traditional science courses can be regarded as useful in some way to achieving net zero (net zero science courses). They will also engage with individual students.
  7. Mentor the scholars via summer schools and one on one coaching to develop well rounded, socially minded graduates who will have the agency throughout their careers to create an inclusive and diverse green economy.

Although TIDE Community is focussing on STEM subjects, there is an equal imperative for arts and humanities subjects to contribute to tackling global warming. An economy the size of the NHS requires legal, accountancy, auditing, project management, policy makers, influencers and many other functions. Perhaps someone reading this will take up the challenge.

If any of this resonates with you, we would be very happy to follow up any leads you may give us to build consensus or to build the scholarship fund. You can also join our LinkedIn group and contribute there.

About the authors:

Sean McQuaid is a Co-founder of Transition through Inclusion and Diversity for Equity (TIDE) Community

Ron Daniel is a Exploration geoscientist in oil and gas

Jenny Garnham is a Consultant Petrophysicist

Dominic Skinner