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The first schedule of Skills Bootcamps delivered by Birmingham City University (BCU) concluded recently and were a huge success, attracting learners from a wide range of disciplines including urban planning, architecture, built environment and the arts.

Skills Bootcamps are part of the Government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee and are funded by the Department for Education. Those delivered by BCU are supported by West Midlands Combined Authority.

Two of the Skills Bootcampers were former STEAMhouse Create program artists Julia Snowdin and Ildiko Nagy. Both successfully completed the Climate Literacy for Sustainable Futures course.

We spoke to Julia and Ildiko to hear their impressions of the inaugural Skills Bootcamps and how they plan to apply new methodologies in their respective practices.

Ildiko Nagy

“I’m an artist who works with natural and recycled materials. I heard about the Skills Bootcamp in an email from STEAMhouse and I instantly thought “Yes this is it! I’m going to sign up!”

On the Bootcamp, we’ve learned about a lot of environmental issues and about the climate emergency. Personally the way I think I can contribute to this is on a local level, so I’m going to start working with local communities and introducing them to everything I learned here. I’ll provide workshops where people can learn new skills, appreciate nature, spend more time with nature and as a result make their own lives better.

My hope is that this will change the system from the bottom up rather than ‘top down’.

I’d definitely recommend the Climate Literacy Skills Bootcamp to everyone – in fact I think it should be taught in early years because we are facing huge issues. We all need to connect and create change for a greener future. It’s very important that people understand how much damage they might be doing to the planet.

I firmly believe that people’s carbon footprint is directly relatable to wellbeing. The more time we can spend in nature and the more activities we can do like cycling and walking, it will not only benefit our mental health but the climate too.”

Julia Snowdin

“I’m an installation artist. I make playable and playful installations for families, working with galleries like the Baltic and with festivals like Art in the Park. I work outside predominantly!

For a long time, I’d been wanting to understand the environmental impact of the work that I create and how I could do better. I got an email about the Climate Literacy Skills Bootcamp and I immediately thought ‘That’s perfect for me. It could help me begin this journey and understand how I can reduce my footprint as an artist.”

The big takeaway from Skills Bootcamp that I’m going to bring to my job is circular design. That means thinking about installation design from the beginning and looking at the materials I’m using.

Could I re-use materials that I’ve already got in stock, could I look at using recyclable alternatives, are there previously-used materials out there that I could source?

I like to use steel, so could that steel go back to the manufacturer to be melted down and used again? I also use a lot of Perspex, so I know that can be returned, ground down and made into new Perspex.

Then in the way I construct the installation, can it all be taken apart and used again? Can I create something that’s tour-able so it goes on to other locations rather than just being used once for the first commission? Once we get to the end of the cycle could I then gift the piece on to a school, for example?

I’d absolutely recommend the Skills Bootcamp to others. Some of the sessions were really inspiring to me and I’ve learned so much, especially that climate action comes into the everyday. Really, just give it a go!

I think it’s vitally important that everyone considers how they can reduce their carbon footprint in their working lives. Maybe in how they commute to work and once they’re at work, how they might inspire their colleagues to do the same thing and implement new climate policies in the workplace.

This is something we’ve all got to think about, it’s not something we can ignore. It’s real and it’s happening.”