Green Careers: 400,000 environmental jobs by 2015

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The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is currently conducting an inquiry into the prospects for green jobs and policies aimed at increasing employment in environmental industries. It will consider how the UK can maximise the environmentally positive opportunities arising from changes in public spending and how this might help with employment during the recession.

The report will also examine other areas, including barriers to creating green jobs and analyse where the gaps are in the skills base for the UK environmental industries. Interestingly Tim Yeo - Chairman of the EAC, has called for the government to lead by example and do more to achieve its own environmental targets.

He told the BBC;
'If the government expects everybody else to be getting greener, it's important that it should lead from the front. It is missing its own target for cutting carbon emissions from the government's own offices, it's using less renewable energy, not more, and its recycling rate is falling, not rising.' 5th August 2009

The EAC inquiry comes hot-on-the-heels of the publication of the report ‘Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World’ funded by the UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme) . This year Allen & York were delighted to be recognised as one of the first 100 participants of the UNEP - Climate Neutral Network (CN Net) and therefore took great interest in this recent report which is looking at green careers across the globe.

The UNEP report predicts that there will be a significant rise in ‘green jobs’ particularly within the Energy industry. This will come from a shift in public spending from fossil fuels (oil and natural gas) to renewable energy sources (wind, solar and geothermal power), and that the 1 million people already working in biofuels, could rise by 12 million by 2030.

New jobs could also result, (the report suggests) from the expansion of recycling and environmental engineering (e.g. engineering new eco-vehicles). Wales as an example has proposed targets to see 70% of domestic & municipal waste and 90% of construction waste recycled by 2025.

Jane Davidson (Environment, Sustainability and Housing Minster – Welsh Assembly) said she was keen to get Wales living within its resources and pioneer sustainability in the UK; “There are tremendous opportunities to save money and create high quality industry in Wales by using the valuable material resources contained in waste.'

What does this mean in terms of actual numbers of jobs? Well Ed Miliband, (UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change) predicts that the environmental industries across Britain could generate an extra 400,000 jobs by 2015 and the UNEP report predicts that the manufacture, installation and maintenance of solar panels alone, will be such a booming industry that it will generate 6.3 million more jobs worldwide by 2030.

These are all large, optimistic numbers and some might say (including Tim Yeo maybe?) that we will have to move a lot faster to reach these ambitious targets. However, what is does show is another global commitment to move the world towards a greener, more sustainable society and that can only mean the creation of more green jobs.

As leaders in Environmental Recruitment – Allen & York were asked by the Independent Newspaper this month to give their opinion on the growth of environmental recruitment and the prospects of career changers looking at moving into this industry.

The biggest area here, Allen & York suggest, is people with generic project management skills, picked up in another industry, such as construction, for example or sometimes individuals with experience of a specific business role prove to have easily transferable skills. Allen & York managed a move recently for a telecommunications firm employee, whose role was buying land for new masts. He moved to a role buying land to site wind turbines.

Other upcoming areas where strong project management and commercial skills will enable a shift toward the green agenda are the Carbon Reduction Commitment or CRCs that come into force in April 2010. There are certainly insufficient skills in the market to ensure that all businesses hit their “commitment” effectively so solid project managers from all sorts of backgrounds are being lined-up within firms to manage the carbon reductions, if not to set the policy and actions at the outset.

During the downturn this affords some businesses a fresh area in which to house those redundant from other sectors. As things pick up however, we will see this trend extend in to the recruitment of project delivery teams from a wealth of differing fields.

Another good example of where transferable skills can be used is in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), a growth area for many companies. CSR spans all levels, from the Board to Junior roles and often begins within Marketing and PR teams.

However, when taken on properly by a company it becomes part of the business and drives every day activity. Often skills will be acquired ‘on the job’, and people who initially have minimal environmental training may find themselves obtaining further qualifications to enhance their newly found skills. The Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA) is a good place to find introductory training courses.

As we approach the Copenhagen summit to find a successor to the Kyoto agreement, and as more environmental pledges are made by global governments, we need to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to deliver on the targets. Allen & York anticipate a surge in Environmental job opportunities over the next few years and look forward to supporting existing environmental experts, as well as career changers looking to start a new ‘green career’.

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