Dr Rebeckah Trinder talks about the Net Zero Together Bootcamp, what its about, who its for and what it does. The author of this blog is Rebeckah Trinder, edited by Lydia Pickering.
I’m Dr Rebeckah Trinder, I have a background in physics and a PhD in nuclear physics mainly specialising in the area of nuclear medicine. However, since July 2022 I switched fields and have had the pleasure of being an instructional designer in the production and running of the Net Zero Together (NZT) Bootcamp. The NZT Bootcamp forms part of the family of Skills Bootcamps run by the University of Birmingham, under the leadership of Professor Nicola Wilkin, Skills Bootcamp Programme Director. Under the guidance of Nicola and Professor Andrew Quinn, the Academic Director of the Net Zero Together Skills Bootcamp, the course is in the middle of it second cohort with three more cohorts promised in the future.
So what is it?
Net Zero Together is a 10-week skills bootcamp which centres around sustainability and we have co-designed the course with industry and academic experts to demystify net zero for employees. The NZT Bootcamp, fully funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), focuses on upskilling employees so they become champions in the understanding of green skills, sustainability, and net zero within their organisations, and to encourage discussion around the three pillars of the course: sustainability, net zero, and life cycle assessment (LCA) & circular economy (CE).
What happens on the course?
The course’s structure is unique in that as well as having three in person days which each day has a specific focus, the rest of the course is taught bimodal. The first half of the course focuses on teaching and discussion to develop the knowledge and skills aligned with the three pillars of the course; and the second half of the course is participant led group projects where the attendees have 5 weeks to produce and develop a sustainability/net-zero idea which could be taken back to an organisation within their group.
First half in more detail – teaching and discussions
The first half of the course looks at the fundamental understanding and information about Sustainability, Net-Zero, and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). This is achieved through various teaching media including: bi-modal seminars, delivered by the course lead, Dr Dexter Hunt; discussions; reading; and an expanding series of podcasts for the participants to listen to while on the course.
Being relatively new to the area of sustainability and net zero I was keen to use this perspective in the NZT podcasts. The podcast series, which forms part of the course content, follows me on my sustainability journey as I, share with the NZT attendees, interviews I’ve had with experts and interested parties discussing different aspect of: sustainability from an environmental, social and work/governance (ESG) perspective; as well as Net-Zero and carbon accounting; LCA, CE and waste management; and much more. It is wonderful experience to learn so much through speak to such knowledgeable and passionate people, including Olympic rower, Olivia Whitlam, who is now Head of Sustainability at Siemens plc, and it is great that I get to share this as part of the course.
Second half – projects
Led by Dr Lydia Pickering, group project work provides the attendees with a lot of freedom to apply the knowledge and skills developed over the first half of the course to identify a sustainability or net zero related area that could be improved upon within their own organisations. The attendees then look to develop a solution over 4 weeks with guidance from a range of industry and academic experts including consultants from RSM UK, Accenture, Siemens, the University of Birmingham. As well as independent consultants including Flavie Lowres and Helen Woolston with over 30 years combined experience in sustainable practices between them. The groups deliver short presentations on their project at the end of the course at the Exchange.
The previous cohort projects included:
- Circular economy website – designed by a group who worked for UoB Estate who created a platform for cataloguing old/redundant materials/furniture on campus for re-use.
- Looking at ways to improve sustainability practices at each stage in the production of plates made from palm leaves.
- Developing awareness of how to make more sustainable choices in the construction industry – the group designed a tool which contractors can use during the planning stage to help track carbon through the design & build stages.
- Performed calculations which showed that by switching off redundant IT equipment the organisation could reduce their environmental footprint and make savings of up to £20k/year across all their UK offices.
- Improving the health & wellbeing of staff by introducing lunchtime walks.
Listed by Dr Lydia Pickering
UK Rail Innovation Networking Building (UKRRIN)
The Welcome event sets the NZT cohort off with a great place to meet one another, in the past it has been a great starter for 10 in terms of discussions and setting the scene for the next 10 weeks. The day is held in the UKRRN building, housing the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, where the cohort partake in a series of workshops and seminars delivered by the NZT team and our guest speaker for the day, Professor Averil Macdonald OBE. Topics include “are plastics the destroyer or saviour of the planet?” and what are the “Net Zero Myths and Facts”. One of the take homes messages that I always take from the day is that there are always two sides to an argument, and you need to discuss the benefits and disadvantage of both before pitching your conclusion. And I have found this seems to be very true when it comes to sustainability and reaching Net zero targets as these are complex topics where each decision can have knock-on effects and it is important to take a holistic approach.
Tyseley Energy Park
The University of Birmingham is connected to the Tyseley Energy Park (TEP) and in the middle of the course we take a trip to visit the Birmingham Energy Innovation Centre (BEIC) based there. This trip not only provides the participants on the course another opportunity to meet one another, building on their sustainability support network and form groups for the projects, but we also get to learn about the current state of energy production in the UK and where improvements are being made and should be made with regards to electricity production, heating homes, and future transport.
The third in-person event is the final day of the course and is held at the Exchange in the centre of Birmingham. As well as the opportunity to listen to our guest speaker, take part in a discussion panel with experts (chaired by Peter Braithwaite), and have a tour of The Exchange, the day provides an opportunity for our attendees to present the skills and knowledge they have learnt through a presentation about the project they have been working on over the previous four weeks. This event is also for the employers to share in, and I am greatly looking forward to the next one.
So, what’s coming up?
While in the middle of running our second cohort of the Bootcamp we are delighted to announce that we have been granted further funding from the WMCA to run an additional 3 cohorts, the first of these will be starting on the Wednesday 26th of April and the others will start in September 2023 and January 2024.
Achieving more sustainable practices and reaching Net Zero is something we should all strive for as individuals; however, greater progress can be made through sharing our best practices and supporting one another. This ideology forms part of the NZT course and as well as developing an individual’s knowledge and holistic approach to sustainability, the course aims to promote making connections and a supportive network of sustainability champions within the West Midlands community. As part of this initiative, the NZT team will be hosting a series of discussion panels and networking evenings at The Exchange to give NZT Alumni an opportunity to come together and meet with like-minded individuals and share what they have learned so far on their sustainability journeys. We would also like to invite local businesses and organisations who wish to join the wider sustainability conversation and develop their sustainability and net zero network and share their ideas and best practice methods.
The First Net Zero Together Bootcamp Discussion Panel & Networking Evening will be held at the Exchange from 5pm on Friday 21st April. This will be a fantastic opportunity for you to hear about the success we have had with the first two cohorts of attendees and an opportunity for you to meet with several of the organisations who have been involved with the NZT programme. There will be a discussion panel about sustainability, net zero and life cycle assessment (the three pillars of the NZT course) starting at approximately 6pm.
For the networking part of the evening, if you would like to bring banner/small stand to promote your organisation’s sustainability practice please let us know on the ticket form for the event here.
Being relatively new to the area of sustainability and net zero, I have loved going on my own sustainability journey through producing content for the course. More than this, I always look forward to learning more and more as the course continues as there is always something new to learn! I would also like to thank the individuals and industrial partners who help make the course through podcasts, discussion panels and sharing their time through consultancy sessions. If anyone else is interested in getting involved with the NZT Bootcamp in this way or would like to discuss an idea they had please do not hesitate to get in touch, email@example.com.
Net Zero Together Bootcamp
To apply for the next Net Zero Together Bootcamp taking place from Wednesday 26th April please click here.
To attend the Networking evening on Friday 21st April part of the existing cohort to showcase your business and learn more about the boot camp, click here.