Imagine future roles

Illustrations of five future roles by Meg McKenzie

This activity can support a careers education session, using the imagination to expand young people’s ideas about the options open to them, or that they can craft for themselves. There is very little certainty about what the future holds and what work roles will be available, but there is certainty that the future will be more challenging and that all jobs in some way will be green jobs, or reacting to the Earth crisis.

See the section on Framing Careers of the Future for more on this topic, with links to many training schemes, campaigns and resources on opening access to green and future-facing jobs.

The activity involves inviting young people to imagine different scenarios for future work. You can draw up scenarios by making some assumptions or ‘what if…?’ statements about the future. These assumptions could be on two axes, for example:

We are on track to reaching Net Zero in the UK, ten years earlier than planned OR We are well overdue on plans to reach Net Zero by 2050

Government supports training and investment in many different, innovative and green careers OR Citizens and businesses have to create training and investment in different, innovative and green careers.

Laying this out in a matrix helps you put a frame around four possible futures. See the illustration below.

Ask students to give each of these quarters a name. Then invite them to brainstorm lots of roles for each of these scenarios. You could structure the brainstorm by asking them to consider local roles, then roles responding to national or international needs.

Throw in some wild card prompts to expand their thinking beyond, say, sustainable hairdressers. These could be:

  • Another global pandemic, making more people unable to work
  • An international ecocide law makes all environmental harm illegal
  • People get bored of the internet
  • It’s illegal to eat meat

Ask groups to share their ideas, and as a whole group you might then choose four future roles that seem aspirational and exciting. Ask them to add more detail to them. What kind of skills are needed? How might we make these kinds of roles real for ourselves?

Here is another matrix, with some similar assumptions, given as an example.

For further inspiration, take a look at the Climate Superpowers website, with several future roles that tap into different superpowers that will help climate and nature.