Vocational Pathways into nature-based jobs report front cover

CIEEM – Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management

Project Leads

Neil Smith

Opening up vocational pathways into nature-based green jobs – research for CIEEM

How can we ensure the ecology sector recruits and retains the people with the skills and experience it needs to meet current and future demand?

What role can vocational training and qualifications play in helping us meet current and future environmental challenges?

What changes does the sector need to make, and what is the ask of government and institutions?

The ecology sector recognises a ‘crisis’ in recruiting and retaining enough people with the skills and experience that it needs.  This problem is now in sharper relief as future demands increase, for example as we look to restore peatlands, green our towns and cities in response to climate change, and address the nature emergency.

Our brief was to explore the role which vocational qualifications can play in helping to increase capacity in the sector.  To do this, the research team of Dr Alina Congreve and Neil Smith explored the main factors which hinder the sector’s ability to recruit enough people with the skills, knowledge and experience it needs.  We used a wide range of techniques to gather evidence and opinion, stimulating debate and sharing learning as part of the process.

The findings highlight challenges for the sector and for the institutions which educate and train the people who work in it.  In summary, the report highlights the factors which constrain the flow of people into the sector:

  1. The reliance on lengthy periods of volunteering to gain skills and experience, far in excess of work experience and placement opportunities in other sectors.  This raises serious inclusion problems.
  2. Poor contract conditions for new entrants e.g., minimum wage work, short-term contracts, need for transport, further compounding inclusion problems and further narrowing the field of available candidates.
  3. Widespread recognition of the lack of capacity in the sector and the problems this brings, but currently an inability to quantify the number of ecologists and related roles needed to implement important environmental priorities.
  4. Confusion around what people with vocational qualifications, or lived experience, can offer the ‘established’ degree-focused qualification model.

But there is hope!  We propose a range of actions which the sector can take now, and which it can take in the short to mid-term.  The sector is characterised by passion, commitment and expertise and these attributes need to be maintained.  People with vocational qualifications can play a vital role alongside people with degrees, applying skills and attributes which complement each other.  CIEEM is engaging with government and the education sector to develop a clearer ‘ask’, making it easier for policy and funding to play its role in developing the sector.

We launched the report at the CIEEM Autumn Conference in Liverpool and you can download the report from the CIEEM website.  Get in touch with us if you would like to know more about this report and the process we undertook.