Ongoing skills development is essential for employers and professionals generally, but it is especially critical for those working in the environmental sector.
The continual and often dramatic development of green industries means that there is an intensifying need for environmental professionals to maintain up-to-date technical expertise while also demonstrating a strong awareness of the interrelationships between diverse areas and systems.
As Defining the Green Economy notes on the evolution of green skills, “the emerging green economy has increased the demand for system integration and a more holistic approach.” Furthermore, the same report observes that recent trends have produced “increased expectations and requirements in relation to technology, as businesses adapt or evolve.”
Consequently, continual skills development is imperative for environmental professionals, and something that many actively embrace. In a survey measuring environmental practitioners’ interest in training, 71% had taken at least one job-related course within the past year. Amongst these respondents, most expressed a strong personal motivation to pursue training, with 76% citing personal growth as the primary reason.
The main challenge, of course, is determining which particular skills to direct training towards.
The 2009 Characteristics of Canadian Environmental Practitioners took an interesting approach to this dilemma by looking at feedback from environmental employees on their training needs. These findings are not only useful for employers in determining what kind of training to offer, but also for new practitioners considering how they can maximize their professional development.
After all, what better way is there to get a sense of the skills that matter in day-to-day environmental work than to ask the professionals performing those activities themselves?
Based on the study’s results, environmental practitioners perceived a strong need for further training in several key environmental and essential skills.
The Need for Environmental Skills
In the environmental skills category, environmental professionals identified a requirement for more training in:
• Environmental assessments and restoration, remediation and reclamation (55% of responses)
• Policy legislation and regulation (47%)
• Strategic partnering, planning, monitoring, and reporting for sustainable development (44%)
The Need for Essential Skills
For those essential or soft skills that support the application of environmental skills, practitioners stated a strong need for further professional development related to:
• Project management (50% of responses)
• Business skills (44%)
• Leading/influencing others (39%)
The 2009 Characteristics of Canadian Environmental Practitioners is one source of information on what skills environmental professionals feel that they need more training in. Your own experiences form another valuable reference!
What skills do you believe are important to focus on for professional development?