5 Trends that are Shaping Green Careers

ravina brar | December-10-12


By Angie Knowles, Research

5 Trends in Green Careers
If there is just one key factor to keep in mind about careers in the environment, it is that these jobs represent highly dynamic industries. 
As a result of constant changes in technology, policy and business development, green professionals have a wealth of new career options available to them today that would have been unheard of ten years ago. 
While all of this change is definitely a good thing when it comes to exciting new green employment opportunities, there’s the associated challenge of figuring out how green jobs may still be changing. Maybe you’re considering training in water quality management or policy development– are these skill areas that will be in demand five years from now?  
Since there is a clear need for new info on the trends that impact the green labour market, ECO Canada’s last few studies have looked at where environmental employment is trending and what green professionals can do to ensure their career success. 
Over the course of this research, we came across these 5 major trends in green careers:

1.Greater employment demand in established environmental industries

This trend is something that is often not well-understood or regularly communicated in a lot of existing literature about green jobs. In fact, many popular depictions of green job growth focus on emerging green sectors, such as green retail or carbon and climate change mitigation. While these areas may certainly be growing, this does not necessarily translate into strong employment numbers. Surprisingly, the two new sectors mentioned above each accounted for only 1% of new green jobs in our research. In reality, many of the latest green job openings can actually be found in more established environmental sectors, such as environmental protection and resource conservation. 

2. Increased integration of environmental knowledge into diverse business areas

Want to develop the skills that will be in demand both now and into the future? Focus on those that involve applying environmental expertise in business development and planning. Out of the hundreds of job advertisements that we reviewed for The Green Jobs Map, employers mentioned these top two competencies the most often: Corporate Environmental Program Planning and Implementation, and Environmental Business, Technology & Product Development. 
Clearly, the integration of environmental knowledge into corporate strategy and business planning is a major area of opportunity that green job-seekers should prepare for. Two great options here and here can help you build out these skills.

3. A strong need for excellent soft skills 

For numerous environmental employers, it is absolutely essential that their staff have well-developed soft skills, including good communication skills (especially writing), critical thinking ability, customer service skills, business savvy, and research skills. 
Out of all of these various skill areas, excellent communication skills are especially critical for environmental work. In our Employer HR Strategies research, companies mentioned how important it was to have staff onboard who could demonstrate good spelling and grammar, conduct critical analyses, and write technical reports. This focus on communication also included verbal communication skills, since many of the technical practitioners in these environmental firms needed to be able to explain complicated technical concepts to clients in layperson terms.
Check out the blog post Soft Skills: How to Determine What Your Have and Develop What You Don't for ways to measure your own skill set and available resources that will help you strengthen any areas you would like to improve.

4.Impressive rates of professional engagement 

Call it the “Environmental Advantage.” People who work in green careers are more motivated and engaged in their jobs than most. Compared to 64% of workers in the general Canadian labour force, 78% of environmental professionals provided high ratings on all three essential elements of engagement– being willing to do more than what is normally required for the job, feeling that their contribution is valued and recommending their company as a great place to work. 
This is a trend will not be ending any time soon. Many of the defining features of environmental work, such as the need for continual learning or the opportunity to make a positive difference, are also factors that improve employee engagement.

5. High education and experience requirements

While this trend certainly isn’t new for environmental work, it appears to be getting stronger as Canada’s green economy continues to expand. When we looked at educational levels amongst green professionals in 2010, about one third (36%) of these workers held a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Flash forward two years to our latest look at green job vacancies, and a remarkable 72% of jobs listed a requirement for at least a Bachelor’s degree. High levels of experience are also a noticeable part of this trend. This year, 44% of employers requested 5 to 10 years of experience in their green job postings.
This trend makes internships and volunteering opportunities all that much more important for recent graduates who need to build out their hands-on experience in the environmental sector.

Are there any trends missed here that you’ve noticed in green jobs recently? What else do you think the future holds for environmental employment?