Rapid sector growth means it’s an employee’s market

Environmental recruitment consultant Jeremy Money is well placed to judge the state of the job market and here he tells edie how the runaway success of the sector means there are more jobs than applicants.

2006 was a highly successful but also a frustrating year, the number of individuals we placed was our best yet, however many of our vacancies remain unfilled due to lack of appropriate candidates.

It has certainly been a very good year for the industry, especially for those already working in the sector.

2006 has been the year of favourable pay rises, with salaries seemingly rocketing across the board.

Great news for the industry, where historically people have felt underpaid compared to other industries.

With the Environmental industry going from strength to strength, there was no shortage of jobs across all the disciplines, around the UK, and abroad.

Disciplines in particular demand were in the core areas such as EIA, contaminated land, waste management, water and Geotechnical Engineering.

All of these areas seemingly are lacking a supply of experienced people, with many teams and departments remaining understaffed.

The majority of positions lay at intermediate level, people “able to hit the ground running”, good technically, able to manage projects, etc.

Graduate and more senior positions were easier to fill.

Geographically, all areas of the UK were very busy, with skill shortages affecting most regions. In particular Scotland, the North West and London were all crying out for experience staff.

2006 also saw traditional fringe areas such as CSR, climate change and renewables move more in to spotlight. These areas have been big growth areas for consultancies in recent years, and again demand is high for experienced professionals.

Dealing direct with the line managers, we certainly shared their frustration at the lack of appropriate people on the market.

Most clients were suffering from excessive workloads and under-strength teams. What they needed most were people who could run with the existing workload from day one, without taking up further resources on training.

At JSM we were undertaking more and more proactive searches on behalf of clients for key roles. Regional Directors, Team leaders and project managers being our most sort after positions

It was also noticeable how clients were being more open minded, and beginning to cast their net wider and look at people with transferable skills from outside the conventional consultancy environment.

This was born out of the realization that insufficient people are out there, and this is not set to change in the near future. This also opened up more scope for people with experience from outside the UK, looking to settle here.

All year we advertised extensively, with only moderate success, it is no surprise that the most desirable candidates, and often too pre-occupied with existing work loads to trawl websites looking for positions that are similar to what they are already doing.

The volume of CVs that are inappropriate and therefore unusable remained high.

We gained a lot of success through our referral and recommendation network, relying on our reputation to bring people to our attention.

Interestingly 2006 did see a steady increase in the number of people successfully transferring into the private sector, from areas such as academia, local authority and industry, further evidence of companies trying to cast their net wider.

Looking ahead in to 2007, JSM is gearing up for another busy year and are more determined than ever to help our clients to plug their gaps.

We are helping our clients make their roles stand out more, appear more enticing and stand out. Helping them address staff retention and keep a finger on what is going on in the industry as a whole.

We are also looking at more people from out of the conventional arena and helping our clients see how their skills could be transferred into their sector.

For those already working in the industry and looking for a move, we are helping them manage their search much more. We know they are going to be in great demand, and aim to make the process as smooth and efficient as possible.

Working as a sole agent for a significant majority of candidates is working very well all round.

Tips for job seekers

  • If you are looking to move due to being overworked and underpaid, it may sound obvious, but make some time to assess your situation.

  • Ask yourself what exactly is wrong in your current position you want in your next job. Make a note of these reasons and set down some objectives and try and stick to them.

  • Once the ball starts rolling, and you start juggling your existing work with arranging interviews, you can quickly lose sight of things.

  • Again working with one good agent should give you a better handle on the process, and enable you to achieve your ‘dream job’

    For those looking at getting into the sector, be it as a recent graduate or someone transferring from outside the industry.

    Despite the abundance of jobs, there is still huge competition for jobs at entry level. For this reason your best chances of success will come from a well written CV and covering letter, along with applications only to suitable positions.

    Your CV will need to capture the readers attention within the first 20 seconds or will be rejected. From experience I find the CV’s that are most successful contain the following:

  • A brief and relevant personal statement, including your career aspirations

  • List of qualifications, most recent first, including the modules studied, focusing on those most pertinent to the position

  • Summary of current experience

  • Keep to 2 pages, keep the layout simple and easy to read

  • Avoid too much detail on irrelevant jobs

  • Long cover letters are rarely read

    Do think about things from an employers perspective they are looking for people who are going to be up to speed as quickly as possible, and not take up more resources.

    Unfortunately if you don’t have the right academic background, be clear it is going to be difficult. If you feel your cv does not portray what you truly have to offer, applying to positions is not going to bear fruit.

    Instead you should take advantage of career fares, open days etc. Any opportunity to get face to face with companies is your most likely way of getting that break that you are seeking.

    Offering to do work experience for free, also shows good commitment and brings an excellent chance of breaking into the sector

    The opportunities are certainly out there, and companies are increasingly more receptive to people from outside the industry.

    You do stand a good chance of crossing in to the industry if you can convince people how readily you will transfer, and be an asset to the company.

    2007 bodes well for perspective candidates, the wealth of opportunities has never been higher, salaries are continued to climb above inflation, and career prospects have never been better.

    JSM Associates is run by Jeremy Money, who founded the company two years ago, having previously worked in the environmental recruitment arena for five years. For more information on the services offered, see the website or call 017496 51100.

  • Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie