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Sustainability and Natural Resource Management skills:


Since committing to the Paris Agreement in 2015/2016, Australia has engaged in reducing carbon emissions and combatting climate change.
In an effort to deal with the effects of climate change and improve sustainability, there is an increasing need for sustainability and natural resource management skills.


The 2009 Green Skills Agreement revised training packages to include ‘green skills’, and the current cross-sector project on Environmental Sustainability Skills continues the empahsis on sustainability skills by aiming to identify duplication and gaps in sustainability skills which span industries.


Industry skills needs

Generic skills

In their 2018 Skills Forecasts, IRC’s ranked a series of 12 generic skill categories, in priority order.

Environmental sustainability skills (which aligns directly with Sustainability and Natural Resource Management) received an average ranking of 11th (out of 12) across all skills forecasts.


    Priority skills

    Sustainability and Natural Resource Management-related skills were also identified, but only in a few instances, by industries that reported on specific priority skills in their 2018 Skills Forecasts.

    While not highly ranked across all industries, environmental sustainability is prioritised by the following handful of industries:

    • Amenity Horticulture, Landscaping and Conservation and Land Management, which prioritises conservation and land management

    • Chemical, Hydrocarbons and Refining, which prioritises environmental regulation skills

    • Pulp and Paper Manufacturing, which prioritises supply chain and environmental sustainability

    • Sustainability, which prioritises sustainable operations (increasing sophistication of sustainability practices).



      Case study: Process manufacturing

      The Process Manufacturing industry, is one component of the Manufacturing and Related Services industry cluster.

      Process Manufacturing encompasses several subsectors, two of which identified specific Sustainability and Natural Resource Management-related skills as priorities for their workforce, These were:

      • Chemical, Hydrocarbons and Refining
      • Manufactured Mineral Products.

      Both subsectors are heavily regulated, particularly in relation to state and local government environmental regulations. Consequently, they prioritised the importance of monitoring government policies (both at state/territory and Commonwealth-level) for changes to environmental regulations and reviewing industry qualifications to ensure that they align with these regulatory requirements.

      Chemical, Hydrocarbons and Refining 

      Regulatory oversight pertaining to environmental factors in the Chemical, Hydrocarbons and Refining industry is highlighted in the following quote from the IRC’s 2018 Skills Forecast:


      The hydrocarbon sector is heavily controlled in relation to matters such as fuel quality, fuel pricing, and other forms of regulation such as domestic energy policy, alternative energy source subsidies, fuel and corporate taxation, industrial relations policy, and environmental issues.

      Regulations in the refining sector vary according to the nature of the materials being refined or smelted. Lead is subject to the heaviest levels of regulation due to its health risks to the population. Establishing steelmaking or aluminium smelting operations by contrast requires businesses to meet specific environmental and zoning requirements regarding noise, air emissions and the use, handling and disposal of hazardous materials and waste. Businesses in this industry are also required to comply with State and Commonwealth Government occupational health and safety regulations and employee requirements.

      The Chemical, Hydrocarbons and Refining IRC’s 2018 Skills Forecast also provides further rationale as to why Sustainability and Natural Resource Management-related skills are a priority for their workforce:

      The main societal factors impacting on the CHR [Chemical, Hydrocarbons and Refining] sector are driven by environmental concerns – as consumers and the public seek reassurance about the environmental impacts of various manufacturing processes in the sector. Some businesses are seeking to innovate and meet consumer demand by establishing greener production methods and improving recycling.


      The demand for more environmentally sustainable products and practices, (including in response to regulation), is driving changes to business practices across the CHR industry. Environmental concerns are also having an impact. This is being felt particularly in subsectors such as pesticides. In response to these concerns, Australian products are being squeezed out by imports with better environmental credentials.

      Some firms are changing the raw materials they use, and others are innovating through the development of new products in order to address these environmental concerns.

      Industry sources highlighted the growing demand for liquid natural gas from China as it diversifies its economy away from coal. This shift has been a positive for Australian suppliers. The use of gas as a transition fuel in the move to a low carbon economy in Australia is debated within the industry – with some players foreseeing a role for gas as a key transition fuel and others predicting a move to renewables which will bypass the need for significant additional baseload gas.

      Environmental concerns have also been raised in parts of the gas sector. Examples include drilling in the Great Australian Bight and the onshore gas moratoria which are in place in a number of states and territories. At this stage these concerns have not yet resulted in changes to training standards, but future changes are possible as governments and companies balance the industry’s ‘social licence’ to operate with the challenge of meeting Australia’s energy needs.

      Manufactured Mineral Products 

      Environmental sustainability skills (which aligns directly with Sustainability and Natural Resource Management) received an average ranking of 11th (out of 12) across all skills forecasts.


      The Manufactured Mineral Products industry is also subject to significant levels of regulation.

      Products must conform with relevant Australian Standards – and manufacturing processes must comply with a range of Commonwealth, state and local government regulations designed to manage environmental risks. These include legislation and regulations managed by the Clean Energy Regulator, as well as those administered by the State Environmental Protection Authorities and local governments relating to the allowable emission of pollutants (e.g. air pollution).

      Testing of products is an important step in the production process required to be adopted by a number of businesses in the MMP [Manufactured Mineral Products] sector. Samples are taken during production, and required tests are then carried out by testing laboratories that test a range of properties such as strength and grading. The National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) is the national accreditation body that ensures organisations comply with relevant international and Australian standards (Manufactured Mineral Products IRC’s 2018 Skills Forecast)

      The Manufactured Mineral Products IRC’s 2018 Skills Forecast also summarises some further reasons why Sustainability and Natural Resource Management skills have been prioritised by this industry:

      The MMP sector is [subject to] increasing environmental awareness amongst consumers. The requirement for higher levels of energy efficiency in non-residential buildings and consumer demand for cheaper energy prices are driving demand for glass wool insulation products.

      Organisations involved in concrete production are subject to increased regulatory oversight as technology allows for improved specification of precast concrete products. At the same time, an increased focus on the environmental impact of concrete manufacturing has required businesses to do more to reduce pollution.

      Ongoing environmental improvements and monitoring are envisaged as consumers and governments demand higher standards.

      Younger generations are also more concerned about environmental issues, leading business and society to give more value to sustainability and the environment (Manufactured Mineral Products IRC).

      Updated: 19 Dec 2018
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