So you want to work in ecology and environmental management?
Getting onto the career ladder in our profession is challenging as any aspiring ecologist, environmental manager or conservation officer will tell you. Whilst there are a wealth of degree programmes and some (not enough) apprenticeships, getting that first paid job can be a struggle.
There are jobs out there though. One way to give yourself the best chance to
At the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) we use feedback from employers and early career members to influence the content and learning outcome criteria of degree programmes that we accredit (http://www.cieem.net/cieem-accredited-degrees). We believe that accredited degree programmes give graduates the best chance of being equipped to successfully get that first job. But whether following an accredited programme, a non-accredited programme or entering the profession through a non-academic route, there are things that you can do to increase your employability.
In 2011 we published the findings of research into skills gaps and skills shortages in the sector. Closing the Gap: Rebuilding ecological skills in the 21st century (CIEEM, 2011) was a response to anecdotal evidence of growing concerns that, at a time when arguably the demand for ecological and conservation management skills has never been greater, the critical skills are in decline in the UK. The key findings of this research identified a number of specific skills gaps and shortages:
There were also knowledge gaps, particularly in the following areas:
Balanced against these findings is the need to understand the extent to which these skills are required. For example fish identification is quite specialised and the number of potential employers is relatively low.
Participants were asked to identify recent and future development needs by using the CIEEM Competency Framework, which identifies 40 technical and transferable competencies – the latter being common to most professions. The findings indicated that, whilst species and habitat identification and management skills are still key, it is some of the transferable competencies that individuals and employers are investing heavily in. Examples include:
Feedback from employers suggests that these are skills rarely found in early career job applicants.
So how can these skills, apparently so highly valued by employers, be acquired? Is it in the classroom? Well, yes, some of them can be to a limited extent. But surely the most effective place to learn is in the workplace. If employers want applicants who can demonstrate at least a basic level of understanding and skill in these areas then they need to provide more opportunities for potential employees to acquire them, ideally through appropriate work experience.
In early 2016 CIEEM published new guidance for members on providing work experience
(http://c-js.co.uk/2k6GQq5) (5.5MB). The guidance, aimed primarily at employers but also of use to those seeking work experience, sets out ways in which a successful experience can be planned and provided to the benefit of both parties. There are some key principles to bear in mind.
For more information about CIEEM, membership and our practical resources and guidance please visit www.cieem.net
Contacted February 2018 - believed to be correct