Lantra, in conjunction with Ulster Wildlife, recently undertook research looking at employability skills in Northern Ireland’s environmental conservation sector.
The research identified a range of skills gaps in the industry and highlighted that environmental specific skills account for 68% of identified shortages.
The key gaps identified include sustainable grassland production (including issues such as sustainable soil management to prevent phosphorous enrichment of water bodies), soil analysis for nutrient management planning, hedgelaying, fencing, recognising and planting trees, habitat management, drystone walling, pond management and hedgerows.
As well as a deficit in ‘technical and practical skills’ (cited by a third of the businesses surveyed), a shortage in ‘soft skills’ also exists, such as communication, health and safety, and teamwork.
Launching the report, Paula Smyth, Lantra’s Business Development Manager said: “Identifying the skills gaps in the industry is the first step in addressing the need for training specific to environmental conservation. Businesses in the sector recognise that providing training to their staff is the best way to remedy their skills deficiencies. However, there is a need to ensure that those current working in the sector, or wanting to enter it, have access to the training they need.” Paula continued: “Interestingly, many of the shortages identified in this research overlap with skills gaps in other industries in the sector, so there is a need to highlight the transferrable skills and areas of overlap, with the potential to embed environmental units into other sector training courses. There is also a need to consider progression options for those working/wanting to work in the industry.”
The research was made possible by funding from BIG Lottery through ‘The Grassroots Challenge Programme’. This initiative empowers young people from Young Farmers Clubs, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award groups and special schools to lead their own wildlife projects, benefiting themselves, their communities and the environment.
A copy of the report: NI Environmental Conservation Skills Survey: 2016 is available to download here.