Has the greening of the job market made working in the water sector more attractive?

Sustainability is at the top of everyone’s agenda and the UK’s infrastructure designers and suppliers are at the forefront. Whether public or privately funded, net-zero and sustainability goals are closing in.

The “green job” is now an integral cog in the wheel of even the smallest of organisations. There is also an appetite from job seekers to make a difference; not only does the “green job” fulfil the need to have a deep-seated sense of purpose in one’s day to day activities, but it is also a growth area, which equals opportunity.

The term green job refers to a role that has a direct impact on business sustainability. In the context of the UK built environment, by sustainability, we mean going about maintaining, developing and improving our built environment, for commercial or social gain, with minimum or no negative environmental impact. The International Labour Organization (ILO), a UN agency, reported back in 2018 that the green economy could create 24 million new jobs across the world by 2030.

What does this mean for recruitment in the water sector in the UK? Are green jobs attracting people into the sector, and is there a sufficient supply of professionals with sustainability credentials?

Dave Kua, Department Manager of the water team at technical recruitment company, Carrington West says:

“The UK’s water and wastewater infrastructure is a contributing factor to climate change. The sector has definitely shifted its focus over the last few years to seek to redress the balance and meet the net-zero targets it has been set, or has set itself. This has resulted in some sustainability roles coming to the market. But more than that, the expectation is that design and implementation engineers and technical professionals are expected to have the knowledge and skills needed to deliver projects in accordance with environmental targets.”

In December 2023, PwC published their second annual green job barometer report, which shows green jobs as a percentage of total jobs advertised by sector. Water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities as a sector comes second only to energy, with around 20%. This is a significant proportion, and certainly points to the industry’s commitment to sustainability. The report goes on to say that a large number of these roles are in highly skilled professions such as engineering.

Dave adds: “There are a number of challenges facing organisations trying to hire engineering or related technically skilled professionals in the water sector. An aging workforce, a lag in much needed IT skills, and the industry’s slow response to IR35 changes inhibiting the use of contract workers are just some examples. But really I think we need to work collaboratively to promote the sector. If we highlight the opportunity to be at the forefront of tackling climate change, we can better attract younger and more purpose-driven talent into the sector.”

The long term outlook for career opportunities in water is positive, and with AMP8 on the horizon, there is no reason why the recruitment market shouldn’t be active. The shift towards more green roles is inevitable, but exciting.

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