Green paper avoids green skills

by 05 Aug 2008

IF BUSINESS is to adapt to changes under the proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, there needs to be a closer alignment between government and industry to address the skills needed, a global HR services company has claimed.

While the government’s emissions trading green paper heralds the “most significant economic and social reform Australia has seen in 25 years”, David Edwards, strategic manager for Drake International, said he was concerned that the level of workforce planning required to prepare for its introduction has not received much attention.

Speaking at a recent event in Sydney, Edwards said the green paper has not addressed the skills that will be required to both implement and manage the proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme and any subsequent carbon trading scheme.

“Given the existing skills shortage across a number of different sectors, there is an opportunity for government, industry and business to be proactive in addressing the skills required for this new regime,” he said.

“The government has introduced a plan of reform that is in the national interest, of that there is no doubt, but now is also the time to develop and implement a national plan where we can jointly tackle the current skills shortages, as well as planning for workforce supply over the course of the next five and ten-year period.”

This presented an opportunity to build a single national body that could capture, collate and report on where the demand for skills will emerge, which industries will be most affected or what the most sought after job categories will be, according to Edwards.

“If there is to be a surge in demand from business for green collar expertise, then it is incumbent on government to ensure the education and training system can produce the necessary skills and qualifications to meet that demand,” he said.

Edwards – who is the former Chair of the Victorian State Training Board and who has also headed up industry groups such as VECCI, CPA Australia, CEDA and the Australian Retailers Association – said that while the heavily publicised CSIRO report pointed to a swell in demand in new environmental employment categories, this will take time to materialise.

“Existing skills, knowledge and experiential capital from adversely affected sectors could migrate naturally into emerging environmental markets to help meet demand,” he said.

A recent Australian Institute of Management survey of more than 250 CEOs, senior managers and business owners found that 80 per cent had no knowledge of the Emissions Trading Scheme.

When asked about the impact the scheme would have on their organisation’s operations, 50 per cent said the biggest impact would be increased costs and an increased level of government reporting and compliance.

Susan Heron, CEO of the Australian Institute of Management in Victoria/Tasmania, said the introduction of the carbon reduction scheme would place a huge strain on the management resources of Australian companies.

“Few SMEs will be on the list of the 1000 companies the government will be placing carbon pollution controls on, but all SMEs will soon feel the flow-on impact of the new scheme and their managers need to be ready for it,” Heron said.

“The SMEs that have verifiable sustainability measures in place, supported by the right organisational structure and culture, will be the ones best placed to meet the marketplace realities of the new scheme,” she said.

Alex Malley, president of CPA Australia, said climate change is a business and economic issue front and centre, and how businesses respond will determine their survival.

“Climate change and the introduction of an Australian Emissions Trading Scheme (AETS) will affect businesses on an unprecedented scale. Both the business community and government must be attuned to dealing with the serious repercussions for businesses’ day-to-day operations,”he said.

“The AETS and the broader business response to climate change will require financial, strategic and operational considerations. Although the vast majority of businesses will not be directly involved in the AETS, they will be affected nevertheless – and they have to realise that and prepare for it.”

Malley said that resource allocation will be a central issue and this is where companies’ CFOs, and the accounting profession more broadly, will be crucial.

“Businesses must accept that an emissions trading regime is about to become a fact of life and that the business response will need to be much more comprehensive than one of narrow compliance.”


Most Read