Graduate award judges want something special

16th September 2011

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As the deadline to enter IEMA's graduate award scheme looms two of this year's judges explain what they are looking for

The IEMA graduate award recognises the skills, talents and achievements of early-career environment professionals. The nomination deadline falls at the end of September.

Here, two members of the panel, lead judge Dave Farebrother and the 2010 winner Sherry Palmer, tell us what the award means to them and what they hope to see in the nominations this year.

David Farebrother, environment director at Land Securities and head of IEMA graduate award judging panelDave Farebrother

Environment director at IEMA graduate award sponsor Land Securities, has headed the judging panel for three years.

Land Securities is again sponsoring the award. What is it about this award your company identifies with?

We see a problem in our sector – a shortage of building engineers who actually know how to operate buildings effectively. The right technology has been implemented but we haven’t been training people who can run the complicated buildings we construct effectively and efficiently. I fear we could see the same problem with environmental issues if we don’t have enough people who are competent to deliver desired outcomes.

We see the IEMA graduate award as a good way of encouraging people to strive for excellence. It has always recognised high achievers in their field and hopefully that encourages other people to follow suit.

What challenges do you think graduates and other early-career environment practitioners are facing at the moment?

Assuming they are actually lucky enough to get a job, the obvious concern right now is job security. Aside from that, looking at the built environment sector, there is the challenge of overlapping issues. There is also a danger that individuals come out of university, having trained in one particular area, and get a job, but are then expected to know everything – which, without experience, they can’t possibly do. I would say that graduates need broader knowledge and experience, but that is a catch-22 situation.

You’ve been a panel judge for three years. Over that time, have you noticed any changes to the calibre of award nominations?

We are getting a greater number of entries to the awards now, but I would like to see even more. There must be a lot of people out there who are contributing and achieving a lot, but are not being put forward. In terms of calibre, the top-level entries are getting better, but there is a bulk in the middle which is really people just doing their job, which is great, but we really need to see something special.

The main frustration is that many of the nominations are not accompanied by sufficient suitable evidence.

Could you describe what your ideal winner will have achieved, as demonstrated by their nomination materials?

I don’t think there is a perfect answer, but the winner and the shortlisted candidates should have a mixture of some, or even all, of the following:

  • they are doing more than just their job;
  • they’ve devised something out of the ordinary;
  • they demonstrate passion for what they do;
  • they can show some measurable results; and
  • they show some evidence of leadership.

It’s not always possible to do everything, but demonstrating an innovative approach or setting some new standards are great ways to get the judging panel interested and excited.

Are you looking forward to presenting the award to the winner at the IEMA Sustainable Business conference?

Yes! It’s sometimes difficult to find time to attend a whole event, but it is always good to be at the IEMA conference, attend the sessions and hear what’s being said. For me, meeting the winner and the runners up is the best bit; it’s interesting and useful, and – personally – I’m never too proud to borrow ideas from the winner!

Sherry Palmer

Winner of the 2010 graduate award for her outstanding work at Belfast-based building and civil engineering contractors McLaughlin & Harvey.

How has winning the award benefited your work profile?

I have been quite modest about winning the award, to be honest. It is beneficial to have on my CV and the coverage in the environmentalist has raised my profile within the local environment profession.

What have you been doing at work since winning the award?

Work is always busy, with new challenges and responsibilities continuing to emerge in terms of environmental management and sustainability.

I still focus on managing the environment systems for the construction of Phase 2B of the Royal Victoria Hospital redevelopment in Belfast, which is due for completion in 2012. I also prepare our entries and submissions to environmental awards, and conduct environment audits on construction and civil engineering projects all over the UK.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of nominating someone (or asking to be nominated) for this award?

Putting a nomination forward is a great way of acknowledging that one of your colleagues is making exceptional achievements in their field regardless of the final outcome of the nomination. Entering the awards also communicates to other environment professionals that innovations are taking place and it is really valuable to recognise this formally.

This is the first time a previous winner has been a judge. Are you looking forward to it?

I am very much looking forward to reading the submissions and getting an insight into the new frontiers being explored by the next generation of environment professionals. It will also be interesting to see what the judging process involves. It’s like having a backstage pass! I am honoured to be on the panel.

What experience do you think you can bring to the judging panel?

Because I have an insight into the standard of last year’s winning entry, and also met the runners up and spoke to them about their projects, I will be looking for something completely different! The environment profession is constantly evolving and I will bear that in mind while judging the entries. As a recent environment engineering graduate, I have a broad range of technical and scientific expertise to draw upon.

What will you look for in a potential winner when you read through the nominations?

I will be looking for an entry that tells a story of someone who is doing something unique or ground breaking, or who is having a widespread impact on an organisation or community. In order to continue to improve the way we care for the environment, individuals entering the environment profession must be innovative, influential and fearless in the face of making change happen.

The deadline for entries is 30 September. Anyone thinking of nominating a graduate practitioner should visit IEMA's website for information on how to do so, including details of what supporting evidence is required.

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