UK 'short of environmental skills'

Britain could run short of people able to tackle urgent environmental challenges within the next 10 years unless skills gaps are plugged, a report warned today.

It identified 15 critical skills in short supply, including numeracy, computer modelling and conducting field research, as well as skills such as translating complex research into plain language.

Unless the shortfall is filled, Britain will find it harder to solve pressing issues such as environmental risks to human health, safe carbon capture and developing new energy sources, it added.

Academics hope the Environment Research Funders' Forum report, titled Most Wanted, will lead to greater collaboration between employers and trainers.

Without people being equipped with such skills, Britain will also be hampered in its efforts to develop new technologies, respond to the impacts of climate change and gain a better understanding of environmental issues.

Professor Bob Allison, the University of Sussex's deputy vice-chancellor who helped launch the report, said: "In preparing the Most Wanted report, we consulted widely with the employers of people with the skills needed in the environment sector.

"The consultations were highly productive and covered government, industry and the research sectors.

"We hope the report will provide a platform to drive much closer collaboration between employers of skilled people and those who provide the training."

The review uncovered a total of 224 skills which are needed by businesses, government and academics working on issues which overlap with the natural environment.

According to a recent report by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), firms across the UK are struggling to recruit staff with the skills needed to meet demands in some of these areas.

Alan Thorpe, chief executive of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), said: "I urge postgraduate training organisations, funders and employers to make use of this important report, and ensure that we have the right people with the right skills to build a productive economy, healthy society and a sustainable world."