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Sustainability and Natural Resource Management skills:


Sustainability and Natural Resource Management skills are an increasing priority for many industries. Australia has committed to reducing carbon emissions and combatting climate change, particularly since committing to the Paris Agreement in 2015/2016. 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 included 'green skills' in training packages, and this emphasis on sustainability skills is continuing with the current project on Environmental Sustainability Skills which is aiming to identify duplication and gaps in sustainability skills which span industries. This project is one of nine cross-sector projects being undertaken by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee to address common skills needs, minimise duplication and consolidate existing training units. 

20% of IRC Skills Forecasts identified this skill as a priority

Industry skills needs

Skills for sustainability and natural resource management ranked as the equal 9th highest-priority by industry, with 20% of individual IRC Skills Forecasts listing them as a priority for their workforce.

When considering the IRC’s ranking of generic skills, Environmental Sustainability ranked 10th highest (out of 12).

While not highly ranked across all industries, sustainability and natural resource management skills are a high priority for a handful of industries.

Industries which prioritised sustainability and natural resource management skills include:

  • Recreational Vehicles
  • Electrotechnology
  • Sustainability
  • Furnishing
  • Manufactured Mineral Products
  • ESI Generation
  • ESI Transmission, Distribution and Rail.

 Types of skills identified by these industries include:

  • Environmental sustainability
  • Green skills
  • Renewable energy storage
  • Renewable technology
  • Resource management
  • Advanced skills in carbon farming.


      Case studies

      Utilities and Electrotechnology

      The utilities industry consists of four IRC industry sectors, several of which identified specific sustainability and natural resource management skills, as priorities for their workforce. These industry sectors are:

      • Electricity Supply Industry (ESI) – Generation
      • Electricity Supply Industry (ESI) – Transmission, Distribution and Rail
      • Water
      • Gas Supply.

      In particular, the Water industry has strong demand for water resource management skills, and the ESI Generation industry has a growing need for renewable energy generation skills. Similarly, the electrotechnology industry has huge demand for renewable energy storage skills. 

      These quotes are from specific industry Skill Forecasts which fit within the utilities industry. They highlight why sustainability and natural resource management skills are a priority in these industries:

      The industry faces future challenges with an increased focus on renewable energy supported by Government policies that promote renewable energy generation. As further research into Carbon Capture and Storage is conducted, these technologies will influence the required skills for this sector. (ESI Generation IRC).

      The impacts of climate change are already being felt in Australia as we see more extreme weather conditions with longer and more intense bushfire seasons, more severe and unpredictable wet seasons, warmer global temperatures and extreme drought. These weather patterns require proactive management of water resources to ensure that resources are monitored and available regardless of the challenges presented by climate variables. The critical impact of climate change and drought has been noted by industry; revised water demand models and solution-based strategies with a focus on assets will prove vital in effective management of this issue. As governments plan for and implement changes to combat climate change and drought, the operating environment will be required to evolve, having a flow-on effect to the workforce skill requirements. A focus on the development of planning and forecasting skills will be required. (Water IRC).

      A number of energy efficiency initiatives are being introduced by the Federal and State Governments to encourage the uptake of technologies such as solar PV, battery storage and electric vehicles. These initiatives will create an unprecedented demand for electrotechnology workers with skills in energy efficiency technologies. The announcement of the Clean Energy Innovation Fund aims to drive this change and many new jobs are expected to emerge. The design and installation of such products will shape much of the electrotechnology sectors over the coming years. The integration of renewable energy into established distribution networks will also be a priority. (Electrotechnology IRC).

      Primary industries: Agriculture, Horticulture and Conservation and Land Management, Aquaculture and Wild Catch and Forest and Wood Products

      This case study covers the following industry sectors, all of which identify sustainability and natural resource management skills as a priority for their industry:

      • Agriculture, Horticulture and Conservation and Land Management
      • Aquaculture and Wild Catch
      • Forest and Wood Products.

      All the industry sectors have a demand for natural resource management skills to help manage the effect of climate change and resource availability. These skills are also complemented with skills in technology and supply-chain management to improve efficiencies and optimise available resources.      

      Quotes from IRC Skill Forecasts which fit within this case study, highlight why sustainability and natural resource management skills have been prioritised in these industries:

      Renewing skills in Carbon Farming. Climate change and its effects on the agricultural crops, which create both challenges and opportunities for many producers to capitalise on technology (i.e. biotechnology) and increase collaboration in supply chains. These partnerships will aim to support the development of more resilient crop varieties and large-scale farming systems. The challenge for individual farmers is to capitalise on technology that supports decision making to develop large-scale farming systems for increased productivity, efficiency and optimisation of available resource utilisation. (Agriculture, Horticulture and Conservation and Land Management IRC).

      Climate change is a challenge that fisheries and aquaculture operators will have to increasingly deal with if they are to maintain or improve the current levels of productivity. Trends in multidisciplinary approaches to natural resource management, which emerge from the need to provide solutions to environmental issues created by operational expansion across the industry. Environmental management and sustainability practices need to be strengthened through capability development. (Aquaculture IRC).

      Climate variability and frequent events of extreme weather conditions due to global warming have various implications on the industry and its value chain. Climate conditions cause concerns relating to log availability, investment opportunities, and demand for wood products. Improved skills to minimise the environmental footprint of log harvesting. (Forestry and Wood Products IRC).

      Updated: 29 May 2018
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