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Employers urged to upskill employees for sustainability

Business should be upskilling current employees to deal with "urgent" sustainability challenges, according to Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA) executive director of policy Martin Baxter.

At an event at the House of Commons to launch IEMA's Skills for a Sustainable Economy report, sponsored by Willmott Dixon, Baxter told HR magazine the impact of environmental changes on business is such an imminent threat that action must be taken immediately.

"The challenge is so big because the CEOs of 2025 are already in work today. Therefore it's about upskilling existing employees as well as embedding sustainable skills in education for young people," he said.

"You need both because we can't afford to wait for the education system to address this issue and bring it into the economy – the challenge is too urgent for that."

Figures taken from Skills for a Sustainable Economy suggest only 13% of organisations are fully confident they have the skills to compete in a sustainable economy.

Speaking at the same event, Willmott Dixon Energy Services managing director Robert Lambe told delegates "we must do much more to embed sustainability in all training and education that we have".

"This should run through apprenticeships and NVQ programmes, to work that's being done through professional institutes," he said.

But Lambe went on to warn that those skills must be put to good use if they are to be retained.

"One thing that we've also recognised is if we don't get the balance right we can train lots of people but if there isn't the demand for them they're going to be lost," he said.

"So getting the balance between creating the demand and having the use for the skills, and having the people with those skills is actually quite difficult. The skills need to be continually developed."