Skills for Employment in the Environment Profession: insights from Australia
Like other professionals, the skills expected to be exercised by those working in the professional environment and sustainability sector cover a wide range. There has been considerable discussion given to what this range embraces, and which are the more important of the skills. Also discussed has been the terminology associated with skills; i.e. core skills, generic skills, transferable skills, competencies, capabilities, and more. An electronic survey of environment professionals based in Australia provided the opportunity to explore the skills that a sample of these professionals considered to be important in their professional work. The results indicated that the critical generic skills for being an environmental professional are: communication (written); project management; interpersonal skills; judgment and decision making; scientific approach and application; team work (coordination); initiative and enterprise; and computer skills. Considering others’ work regarding other professions, it appears that many of the skills in this list are also relevant to a range of professions. Further, the broad relevance of these skills is indicated as the survey participants considered them to be important for specific (current) jobs and for working in the sector generally. Surprisingly critical thinking, which is often noted in the literature as a high priority, was considered important for current positions, but not so for working in the sector generally. Also, the participants indicated little appreciation of aspects of ‘normative skills’; suggesting that practitioners are focused on skills needed for ‘getting the job done’, but show little recognition of what the ‘job is and its implications’. The results provide a snap-shot of the profession, and point to areas of research regarding the skills that future environment, and other, professionals will need, and how educational institutions will have to respond; given fast moving climate change, alongside the continuing roll-out of automation in work-places.
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