Passionate about the profession

15th July 2011

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IEMA reveal the results of its latest environmental skills and talent survey

The environment profession is certainly one that is on the move. As the environment makes its way to the centre of decision making in organisations and the rising cost of resources continues to present challenges and opportunities for organisations, the role of practitioners is evolving.

IEMA has recently established that the profession is attracting individuals from a range of backgrounds who boast a winning combination of valuable, transferrable skills. At the start of June, IEMA surveyed all UK Graduate, Affiliate, Associate, Full and Fellow members to assess the key reasons for choosing the environment as their field of choice and the skills and experience required to succeed.

Through the responses, IEMA has been able to reveal the number of those who have always worked in environment roles and how many had joined the profession from another sector.

More than four in 10 respondents (42%) have always worked in an environment role, while 36% describe themselves as a “career changer”*. The survey results reveal that the latter had left another sector to take up an environment role, some after a period of retraining.

Those entering the profession left roles in a variety of sectors, including engineering, manufacturing and IT, to enter the environment profession – 44% of whom switched after more than 15 years in their previous role.

What remains consistent throughout these two largest groups of members – lifelong environment professionals and career changers – are the “hearts and minds” motivations for joining the environment profession in the first place.

More than 55% of all respondents declared that they entered the profession because they either wanted to make a difference or had a personal interest in the environment and sought a job that reflected this.

A further 12% stated that they found themselves in an environment job because the “environment became vital to the development of an existing role”, while an additional 7% said that they chose an environment career because the environment is “central to the future of the economy”.

The creation and launch of the competency framework (as featured in the environmentalist last month) demonstrates that knowledge, skills, learning and experience go hand-in-hand in the career development of anyone working in the environment profession.

Because the profession in general has high standards of environmental knowledge – previous research has found that more than four out of five have a bachelor’s degree or higher – there are a number of different qualifications available to those wishing to move into an environment role, from GCSE all the way up to doctorate.

Many career changers responding to the survey undertook a vocational course of study to upskill and assist their transition, with more than one-third doing a masters degree, post-graduate certificate or PhD.

The survey – generated only by IEMA members’ experiences – demonstrates the dynamic nature of the profession from many angles.

Claire Lea, IEMA’s director of membership services, commented: “This latest survey of our members reflects what members have previously told us in our day-to-day contact with them: that environment practitioner roles are on the move, providing new and exciting career opportunities.

"People entering and progressing through the profession are bringing a wide range of management and leadership skills to complement their sound environment knowledge.

“It is these environment practitioners – IEMA members – who are uniquely positioned to identify opportunities to add value, drive cost savings, and, ultimately, deliver change.”

The survey findings have enabled IEMA to further inform the media about the environmental profession.

This is only the start of more work in this area on the topic of environment talent and skills.

IEMA would like to thank the 1,622 members who took part in the survey. If you were unable to take part this time, please take the opportunity to add your voice to our next round of research.

* The remaining respondents were either recent graduates who had yet to take up a practitioner role or were unsure how to define their career history.


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