Amy Robinson PIEMA, Director at RPS and Guest Editor for the Journal discusses the launch of Volume 9 of the IEMA IA Outlook Journal, exploring the theme of careers and skills in Impact Assessment with articles from Arcadis, Arup, Atkins, Jacobs, RPS, Turley and Waterman Group.

I am pleased to announce the launch of the latest edition of the Outlook Journal, which provides an insight into some of the skills required by environmental practitioners in 2021 and how these can influence career paths. The articles included in this edition reflect on the experiences of those entering the profession, the skills sought by those responsible for recruitment and the experiences of those working in a rapidly evolving industry, including consultation and digital skills.

In his article, Richard Shortridge discusses his experiences of identifying suitable candidates during the recruitment process. He explains that excellent technical skills provide a strong starting point. However, Richard and his colleagues also look for attributes such as willingness, appetite and enthusiasm. In a competitive industry, I agree that it is attributes such as enthusiasm and a willingness to learn that can set a candidate apart. The ability to work well as part of a team, to listen to and understand client requirements and communicate findings of work undertaken is critical to developing further in your career.

Beccy Wilson and James Banks provide insight into the early years of their careers. Beccy, a graduate at Arup, reviews the skills needed to enter the industry and ways in which graduates can stand out from the crowd. James, a consultant at Turley, reflects on his experiences in the early stages of his career since entering environmental consultancy as a graduate. Jenny Wade considers diversity within the environmental profession. Her article looks at the potential barriers to diversity and inclusion within our profession and the unconscious biases we can hold when engaging with others, including when recruiting.

Ryan Maidment provides an overview of learning styles and how each style affects the way in which you learn – something worth considering, both as individuals and as line managers or mentors. In addition to technical knowledge and soft skills, there is an increasing need for digital skills as part of the role of an environmental practitioner. The development of digital project management skills and of digital documents and outputs has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with rapid adoption of techniques such as virtual consultation across many sectors. This is considered by Matthew Snape in his article on the rapid evolution of digital skills across the industry.

In addition to digital skills, many environmental practitioners require consultation and engagement skills in order to provide effective engagement with stakeholders and the public on behalf of clients. This is frequently a core part of a practitioner’s role and Ros Boalch identifies this as a key skill for an environmental professional. In their article, Julia Faure Walker and Niall McCarthy review the benefits of mentoring and the reasons why we should encourage this. With reference to Professor Dumbledore and Steven Spielberg, it’s clear that this is an area where environmental practitioners can learn from other professions (and legendary wizards).

This volume of the Outlook Journal includes input from a range of professions, providing their insights into the potential careers for environmental practitioners and some of the skills that are useful in entering the profession, and in progressing careers within the industry.

What this does start to highlight is the enormous range of roles within our industry, from topic specialists, to project managers, to engagement professionals and digital teams. This offers those entering our industry a dizzying array of choices to suit their skills. In many cases, individual careers progress based on specific opportunities and experience gained on individual projects rather than by design.

Many graduates entering the industry are not fully yet aware of the range of roles available, or what they involve, and therefore can benefit from gaining exposure to many aspects of the profession to be able to make an informed decision about the direction they would like to take. At RPS we aim to offer this variety of experience within the first two years through the graduate scheme, which allows rotation to various offices and disciplines, providing a good basis for understanding the range of services a multi-disciplinary consultancy offers.

The range of services and careers within the environmental sector is constantly evolving, offering opportunities for all professionals to gain additional skills and expertise in order to meet new challenges, including digital EIA, net zero carbon and virtual consultation. This makes it an exciting time to work in the profession, as described by one of our graduate consultants Hugo Forster:

"My career choices have been driven by a deep desire to shift the emphasis of development to one of sustainability. I genuinely believe we can create harmony and balance between our current lifestyles (albeit with some significant behavioural changes being necessary!) and the natural world. The clock is ticking on the urgent need to protect our environment from the adverse effects arising from anthropogenic activity, however it is not too late to change the way we continue to develop our built environment. It is my goal to be on the frontline for bringing about such change."

Well, that seems to be a good reason to keep developing our skills to meet the challenge!

I hope you enjoy reading the articles in this edition.

Download a copy of the Outlook Journal here.

Please note: the views expressed in this blog are those of the individual contributing member, and are not necessarily representative of the views of IEMA or any professional institutions with which IEMA is associated.

Photo of Robinson Amy 20181127 0036
Amy Robinson, PIEMA, BSc, MSc, Director at RPS

Amy is responsible for the co-ordination of large multi-disciplinary EIA projects and the production of Environmental Statements. Amy provides advice on all stages of the EIA process, from screening and scoping through to Environmental Statement production, submission of application documents and work at Public Inquiries and coordination of Expert Witness input for major projects. Amy is responsible for the EIA team in the Oxford office, including development of digital EIA.