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Next government must create a workforce fit for the future

88% of environment & sustainability professionals polled this week by the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA) say that the next Government should prioritise expanding the core range of skills known as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) to include Sustainability, becoming STEMS.

96% of those polled also say that the incoming government should commit to delivering a cross-sector sustainability skills strategy - a plan of action to embed and mainstream environment and sustainability skills throughout all education and training schemes - in order to bridge the current sustainability skills gap and enhance productivity and competitiveness.

The results of “IEMA’s Sustainability Skills Election Poll” reinforce IEMA’s 2014 research – published in the “Preparing for the Perfect Storm” report – which found that just 13% of organisations are fully confident that they have the right skills in order to compete in a sustainable economy. The current gap between the supply and demand for sustainability skills threatens the UK’s future ability to compete on a global scale, even though some UK businesses are showing leadership on making sustainability skills work hard for their business.  Organisations who are firmly embedding sustainability skills into their business are reaping the rewards, with some saving in excess of &pound1million per year through efficiencies implemented by skilled Environment & Sustainability Professionals, and creating new market opportunities.

Josh Fothergill, IEMA’s lead on skills for a sustainable economy, said the results of IEMA’s Poll demonstrate that there is “resounding support” from the profession for a centralised commitment to sustainability skills, “Our members have voiced a clear message to the next government, saying that it has a responsibility to set clear expectations, guidance and frameworks for sustainability skills. Failure to do this within the next Parliament will mean the UK will be behind the line - perhaps permanently - so this is a very real priority.”

Over 95% of respondents said that it is important that sustainability issues have stronger prominence in both the National Curriculum and lifelong learning frameworks for the existing UK workforce.Furthermore, 95% also said that the next government must do more to drive the transition to a sustainable economy by specifying sustainability competence and capabilities within public procurement contracts.

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