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With ESG principles embedded into everything we do, the goal of our Sustainable Legacies strategy is straightforward: to ensure that the way we run our business, and the work we do in partnership with our clients, leaves a positive, lasting impact for communities and our planet.

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Featured Insight

Bridging the green skills gap: how to tackle the sustainability talent shortage

According to LinkedIn’s The Global Skills Report 2023 globally, only one in eight workers has one or more sustainability skills.

Lucy Bradbury
Bob Beinstein

Between 2022 and 2023, the share of talent in the workforce with these skills grew by a median of 12 percent, while the share of job postings requiring them grew 22.7 percent.

These figures show that there is a major disconnect between the demand for sustainability skills and the level of skills in the existing talent pool.

To combat the accelerating impacts of climate change and societal challenges of equity, opportunity, and justice, along with the increasingly stringent Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) requirements that global companies are facing, it will be critical that our workforce gain far deeper holistic sustainability skills.

Sustainability leadership driven from the top

Like all strategic imperatives, upskilling entire segments of the workforce requires strategic planning, along with senior level leadership and buy-in. Sustainability behaviours must be embedded and modelled from the very top of the organisation. Leaders must recognize the strategic imperative, and upskilling themselves to create new sustainable leadership and economic models designed to foster the transition to a low carbon, equitable economy.

Growing your own sustainability talent pool

The challenge here is not solely around new hires. Overcoming our challenges with new staff will not achieve the results we need. It is clear we need to be looking for sustainability skills in each new hire, but the far more crucial work centers on upskilling the existing workforce. In most cases, these teams are skilled and professional – they simply need help growing the sustainability skillset around what they already do. Here is where many global firms are closing their sustainability skills gap, by upskilling their existing workforce with key new skills.

At AECOM, we have embarked on an ambitious global training program for all our employees:

  • For selected technical staff, across all regions and sectors, we’re offering facilitated training in Envision, a sustainable infrastructure rating system that also functions as a strong philosophy of holistic design. Since mid-2021, we’ve trained hundreds of staff, and have now held multiple classes for our clients too, helping pave the way for them to integrate ESG into their procurement and contracting processes.
  • We launched a 40-hour training program to build carbon-related skills, our Carbon Bootcamp. And for staff wanting to understand the basics of carbon literacy we also have a 1–hour Carbon 101 webinar on-demand.
  • Through AECOM University, we now offer more than 40 self-directed classes related to ESG, all available to any employee.

Inspiring the next generation

With the creation of more sustainability roles, organizations also need to inspire the next generation of workers by engaging with schools and college programmes and having ties with universities and apprenticeship schemes. At AECOM, in Fort Lauderdale in Florida, we are partnering with the Museum of Discovery and Science to provide free immersive STEMobile Programming to underserved local schools.

Realising the return on investment

Investing in sustainability skills isn’t just the right thing to do or part of your ESG agenda, it makes business sense as well. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023, 2 in 3 companies expect a return on investment on sustainability skills within a year.

Key takeaways: Start embedding sustainability skills in your workforce

Develop a materiality matrix

Conduct a materiality assessment to understand what material issues exist in your company regarding sustainability skills, who the key stakeholders are and what areas need improvement.

Introduce mandatory training for all

Once you understand your specific skills gaps, develop training to address them. The training doesn’t have to be overly long or perfect. Starting with a short mandatory training module for all employees, offering an overview of environment and social sustainability and actions we can all take, is a good start.

Keep training bite sized, clear and engaging

Sustainability is a hugely complex topic. When developing mandatory firm-wide training modules, don’t train everyone on everything at the start, otherwise you run the risk of overwhelming them. You want to keep employees engaged and open to learning. Focus on making virtual and face-to-face training sessions relevant to the audience, interesting and concise.

Take a comprehensive approach

To achieve the behaviour change required to upskill an existing workforce, a comprehensive range of training will be necessary dependent on the role and/or level of skill of the employee.

Embed ESG into performance and rewards

To drive the firmwide behaviour change required to meet the demands of ESG, embedding sustainability-related goals into overall business performance metrics and incorporating sustainability metrics into employee’s performance and rewards process is imperative.

In summary, the ultimate goal has to be to embed ESG skills and approaches into your existing systems and processes so they become business as usual, and just how we do business.

*LinkedIn’s The Global Skills Report 2023

Webinar: Tackling the sustainability skills gap to achieve ambitious goals

Join Lucy Bradbury, our Global ESG Training & Development Lead, and Bob Beinstein, our Global ESG implementation Lead, who’ll take you through:

- Our journey: Overview of where we are and what we've learnt along the way

- The approach: How we are sharing our learnings with others to upskill the wider infrastructure industry

- What’s next: What we can offer your organization to upskill and achieve ambitious sustainability goals

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