The rise of hired education: Almost half of young people set to choose green job over traditional higher education

With university fees being so steep, eco and cost-conscious youngsters are looking at careers that are good for the planet and their pockets - and seven in 10 young people think the best way to help tackle climate change is to get a "green job".

New research conducted by energy and sustainable solutions provider E.ON showed that almost two-thirds (60%) of school leavers (those aged 16-18) are considering apprenticeships or going straight into work to get a head-start in their career, instead of traditional higher education.

Two in three (66%) school leavers said the cost of university is just too high.

Almost half (46%) of 2,000 16-24 year-olds polled by E.ON said they planned to swerve student life to go straight into a green job, with 71% saying this would be their way of taking climate action.

A green job refers to any role that has a positive impact on the planet, including working for a sustainable company, jobs with environmentally conscious credentials or working in the circular economy - such as repairing shoes and clothing or upcycling furniture.

Yet the research also showed that young people are often put off from applying due to misconceptions, such as thinking their own personal habits would be scrutinised (51%), believing green jobs must take place outside in nature (40%) or that they don't pay very well (39%).

When asked about barriers to getting a green job, 43% of young people surveyed said there was a lack of information on the options available and 40% believed that having a traditional job was an essential requirement.

However, degree apprenticeships - where people earn as they learn within an organisation while undertaking a degree which is paid for by their employer - have become increasingly appealing.

Almost half (48%) of young people said a degree apprenticeship is the best path to starting a green career after school, compared to just 29% who said going to university would help them secure a green job.

And 63% of school leavers said going straight out to work or taking an apprenticeship allowed them to boost their skills sooner.

Chris Norbury, CEO of E.ON UK, said, "It's incredibly positive that young people are actively looking to build a green career and are keen to join organisations that are focused on helping people become more sustainable. Industries that are working towards net zero are already creating thousands of exciting new jobs that deliver personal and professional fulfilment for people all over the UK.

"We're leading the way with roles across our organisation focused on helping people become more sustainable in their homes, businesses, and communities. One example is our degree apprenticeship scheme which offers opportunities for young people to develop their passion for sustainability and sets them on the path to a successful and rewarding career."

Official figures show that in 2023, 430,000 students expressed an interest in apprenticeship opportunities via UCAS - a 180% increase since 2021. About 40% of UCAS applicants now say they would consider an apprenticeship.

Helen Tupper, expert career adviser, bestselling author of Squiggly Career and co-founder of the Amazing If podcast, added, "Starting your career can feel daunting when there are so many decisions to make about what to do and where to do it. However, there's no longer a default for what 'good' career development looks like which means younger generations have more freedom to progress their careers in ways that work for them.

"Apprenticeships are a great example of how Millennials and Gen Z are beginning to determine their own development, allowing them to learn quickly and develop their skills in a variety of roles. With sustainability and climate considerations high on the agenda for younger generations, apprenticeships within organisations that are focused on these areas are helping people to combine their purpose with their progression."

E.ON's apprenticeships focus on ensuring apprentices develop the skills and knowledge needed to create a sustainable future and to thrive at any career stage, whether entry-level, middle management or Senior Leadership Programme. Its degree apprenticeships provide a paid route into higher education.

E.ON currently has almost 200 apprentices working on over 50 different schemes, and offers a range of degree apprenticeships such as Engineering, Project Management and Supply Chain Leadership, as well as lower-level apprenticeships in customer service, accountancy, HR, legal, cyber security and others.

To find out more about E.ON’s degree apprenticeships and other apprenticeship schemes, visit