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Careers in carbon management


Careers in carbon management

A number of European Union-funded carbon reduction programmes, including wind-farms and carbon dioxide capture and storage projects, are creating thousands of jobs in this area. Julia Pierce reports

In order to cut carbon emissions to meet EU targets, member states have been developing a portfolio of affordable, clean, efficient and low emission energy technologies, from wind power to biofuels. However, each faces barriers to widespread use. Launched in 2007, the EU’s strategic energy technology plan, or SET Plan, aims to improve coordination of work in research centres and universities in order to overcome these obstacles. By encouraging public-private partnerships and joint programmes between member states, opportunities for graduates are being created along the way.

By 2020, it is hoped that 20 per cent of the EU’s electricity will come from wind power. However, existing turbines need to be more reliable, especially for use offshore. The European Wind Power Initiative is creating around 250,000 jobs between 2010 and 2020. A testing facility – the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, off Aberdeen in Scotland – has just opened.

Meanwhile, the European Solar Initiative (photovoltaic and thermoelectric) aims to make these technologies more competitive and increase their use in urban areas, as well as improve their integration into the electricity network. The EU-SOLARIS project testing CSP – concentrated solar power – is based at the Advanced Technology Centre for Renewable Energies (CTAER) in the Desert of Tabernas in Almería, southeastern Spain. In CSP, reflectors concentrate the sun’s rays onto a receiver, where the thermal energy is converted into electricity. At CTAER, a demonstration plant of almost commercial size is to be created.

Elsewhere, the European initiative for the capture, transport and storage of carbon dioxide aims to develop the most promising technologies to this end from both energy generation and power intensive industries. The Technische Universität Darmstadt in Germany has set up a pilot plant to test carbonate looping and chemical looping methods for CO2 capture that require virtually no additional energy input and entail only slight increases in operating costs. They use natural substances such as limestone and reduce the energy currently needed for CO2 capture by more than half.

Finally, current national electricity grids are designed to carry power generated by a small number of large, fossil fuel powered generation plants. Under SET’s European Electricity Networks initiative, by 2020 half of networks in Europe should be adapted to allow renewable energy to be integrated and will operate intelligently, incorporating various switching points that reduce the voltage, helping equipment tap into the power at low voltage to either supply electricity from, for example, an individual household’s wind turbine or to charge electric vehicles.

The global DESERTEC project, which will harness solar and wind energy in deserts worldwide, will also create challenges as power will need to be transmitted to users via long high-voltage power lines or undersea cables using loss-minimising direct current that must be converted back to alternating current for general use. "In cooperation with Siemens Energy we are developing high-power switches,” says Markus Billmann of the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Systems and Device Technology. "These are necessary for transmitting the direct voltage in the power grid and are crucial for projects like DESERTEC.”

High Fliers
Financial experts predict a growth in the travel and tourism sector in 2011 despite the global economic difficulties. Assisting the growth is a trend for exotic destinations, as Sam Pears investigates.

Employing a staggering 235 million people worldwide and generating nearly ten per cent of global GDP, the travel and tourism sector wasn't hit quite as hard by the economic downturn as some forecasters had predicted. The recovery has been reflected in a faster-than-expected rebound in international travel, particularly in Asian markets. And although growth may be slower in Europe than initially expected for 2011, experts are already talking about a real flicker of hope for the region.

The global travel and tourism economy real GDP growth is expected to rise by two per cent this year, creating an extra 946,000 jobs worldwide. "The longer-term prospects for travel and tourism remain positive, boosted by the rising prosperity in Asia,' says Jean-Claude Baumgarten, former president and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). "Travel and tourism will remain a dynamic force for wealth and job creation.'

Eastern promise

The rising popularity of Asia and interest in far-flung destinations is a key trend for 2011. Asia will experience the greatest growth, led by countries like China and India where millions of people will join the middle-class over the next two decades, enjoying increased disposable income and greater confidence and aspiration to travel. It is estimated by Goldman Sachs that some two billion middle-class consumers will enter the market from BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) in the period up to 2030. In turn, this is expected to increase job and graduate opportunities across BRIC nations and parts of Europe.

The growth of the Asian market and the trend for exotic destinations also comes as good news for airlines, a sector in need of some positive news. As David Scowsill, current president and CEO of WTTC points out: "Too often, travel and tourism - particularly aviation - is a scapegoat for poorly thought, short-term government policies, blunt instruments that too often fail to resolve the issues they were established to address, such as carbon emissions.' Scowsill calls for the industry to fight back against being the 'whipping boy' on this issue and remind other industries, opinion formers and politicians of the unparalleled work it is already doing in this area.

Despite the challenges facing airlines, passenger numbers are on the up. This improving trend in air traffic numbers, which was first seen in the summer of 2009, has continued throughout 2010. For the six months to the end of September, figures revealed that the overall annual growth rate in passenger traffic, which includes leisure travel, was just under nine per cent and passenger numbers are now back above their pre-recession level of early 2008, according to David Radcliffe, chief executive of travel expert Hogg Robinson.

Attracting graduates

So what does it all mean for graduates entering the travel and tourism industry? New graduates are hugely important to the success of the sector. Businesses have to adapt as markets and consumers' needs are changing. Graduates bring fresh ideas to businesses and help them to adapt to the changing environment.

David Scowsill would like to see more graduates considering a career in the airline industries and in travel and tourism generally. While the industry may be perceived by many graduates as being low-paid with few growth prospects, he is at pains to point out that this is absolutely not the case. "Travel and tourism offers a diverse range of jobs in many different sectors; financial services (accountants), transport services (pilots or drivers), and technical services (engineers, architects),' he says. "But employees often do not identify their jobs as being within travel and tourism. This creates a challenge that needs to be overcome.'

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Attracting overseas students can serve as a policy to increase the future inflow of highly talented workers. That is the implication of research published in the latest issue of the Economic Journal, which investigates the effect of studying abroad on students’ likelihood of working abroad after obtaining their university degree.

The study by Matthias Parey at the University of Essex and Fabian Waldinger at the University of Warwick examines the impact of Erasmus, a student exchange programme introduced by the European Union in 1987, in which more than two million students have participated, including about 180,000 from the UK. The results indicate that graduates who have studied abroad are 15 percentage points more likely to work abroad after graduation.

The authors also provide evidence on why students who have studied abroad are more likely to work abroad later on. While studying abroad seems to increase labour market skills that are in demand in the foreign country, other ‘softer’ factors are also affected. Studying abroad raises students’ interest in foreign cultures and introduces them to people in the foreign country. Some even return to the foreign country for work purposes because they met their partner while studying abroad.

The researchers note that the number of students studying abroad has risen dramatically in recent decades. Numerous countries, including the United States, Japan and the UK, attempt to attract highly skilled and mobile workers through policies relating to student mobility programmes.

Essex economist Matthias Parey commented: "Little is known about the effectiveness of such programmes. At the same time, the number of students studying abroad has risen dramatically, and more generally the higher education sector has become much more international in recent decades.”

The study finds that location choices are sticky, that is, students tend to return to work where they have studied abroad, suggesting that contacts and language skills are important factors driving the decision to work in a foreign country. While studying abroad seems to increase labour market skills that are demanded in the foreign country there are also "softer” factors which are affected by studying abroad. Studying abroad raises the students’ interest in foreign cultures and introduces them to people in the foreign country. Some students even return to the foreign country for work purposes because they met their partner while studying abroad.

Fabian Waldinger,  from Warwick’s Department of Economics, added: "These findings suggest that mobility decisions during university have long-run effects on the careers and labour-market outcomes of individuals. In particular, mobility during the course of the studies increases international mobility in the labour market.  This highlights the importance of student mobility to attract highly skilled workers. Attractive student migration policies are likely to increase the future inflow of highly talented workers, which may therefore enhance long-run growth prospects.”

The analysis is based on a large-scale survey of university students, graduating from German universities between 1989 and 2005 and collected by the German Higher Education Information System (HIS) Institute.

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