Improve your career prospects with green skills

Posted October 13, 2011, by Josie Chun

With talk of climate change and carbon taxes on everyone’s lips, awareness of green issues is at an all-time high. But look around your workplace – are green practices an integrated part of your organisation’s culture? And have you ever thought about what more you could be doing to help further your sustainability practices?

Green-skilling has emerged as one of the top workplace trends for the coming year, and this trend is sure to continue. The implementation of green workplace practices is not only good for the environment, but is becoming an increasingly powerful way of attracting potential employees, clients and investors. Sustainability is the way of the future and both individuals and businesses will have to start thinking – and acting – green.

Sharan Burrow, Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) President, says, ‘Sustainability will become central to business strategy. Integrating sustainability into all aspects of their business – into the products they make, into their operations and processes, and into their accounting practices, they [businesses] will increasingly demand green skills and knowledge.’

However, despite increasing awareness of environmental issues, a Green Steps Australian Workplaces Survey has found that most Australian workplaces offer no green skills or sustainability training for staff, do not review staff on environmental performance or address sustainability issues when hiring.

Green Steps Manager Mark Boulet says, ‘This is not good news. The workplace is the frontline when it comes to sustainability – it is as important as what we do in our homes. If Australia wants to save water, cut carbon emissions and reduce our impact we need employees everywhere to be green skilled.’

Employers want green candidates

Sustainability needs to be factored into businesses at all levels and be part of overall performance management practices. ‘What we do at home accounts for only 20 to 30 per cent of Australia’s energy and water consumption and waste production, which means we can do far more to combat our environmental challenges by addressing sustainability within the workplace, and this requires greater knowledge and skills from employees everywhere,’ says Boulet.

Despite the lack of workplace training, 90 per cent of Australian employers still consider themselves to be ‘environmentally aware’ and 71 per cent said they would favour green-skilled candidates when hiring.

‘Employers want green skills but aren’t investing in this capacity in their workforce. Rather than simply relying on a small number of sustainability specialists, Green Steps wants to see a workforce with ordinary everyday workers who go about their everyday jobs knowing how sustainability fits into this and what they could do to reduce their impact. We call them “green implants”. We’re going to need millions of them if we are to make a difference,’ says Boulet.

How you can acquire green skills

Gaining green skills means going beyond simply recycling paper and turning off your computer at night. In most cases, specific green training is required.

Green Steps is a hands-on sustainability education and leadership program developed by the Monash Sustainability Institute to equip participants with the skills to drive environmentally sustainable practices within organisations and the wider community. Its Green Steps @ Work intensive training program teaches non-specialists practical skills in energy, waste and water auditing, implementing carbon reduction and waste minimisation action plans, and instigating staff behaviour change programs.

‘We need green skills to be a part of everyone’s CV,’ says Boulet.

Green careers

Green jobs are growing faster than any other sector according to a recent Manpower report, and some experts believe that a critical shortage of green skills is looming.

According to Sharan Burrow, green skills shortages already exist and the pace of green job creation will only accelerate in coming years. ‘We need to prepare new workers for the skill requirements inherent in green jobs.  We also need to ensure that our transition to a greener more sustainable economy is not stymied by a shortage of adequately trained workers,’ says Burrow.

For those wishing to explore a career in this dynamic and growing field, or industry professionals wishing to further their careers through the development of green expertise.

Five things every organisation can do to improve their environmental performance

  1. Conduct a basic environmental assessment. What is your organisation’s energy and water use and waste production?
  2. Reduce energy use by encouraging staff to turn computers off at the end of the day.
  3. Reduce waste by taking away land-fill bins under desks and setting up central waste and recycling stations in staff rooms or kitchens.
  4. Cut paper use in half by setting double-sided printing and photocopying as a default.
  5. Build the capacity and green skills of staff by providing green skills training.


Josie Chun

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