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Nature must wait: climate change adaptation hindered by landscape skills shortage

The UK’s plans for climate change adaptation and nature recovery are being held back by a major skills shortage, according to the latest research by the Landscape Institute. Its report, Skills for Greener Places, is the result of an industry-wide assessment of skills and workforce issues within the landscape sector. It found that:

  • The UK has a major green skills gap inhibiting its ability to deliver on plans for local climate adaptation and nature recovery.  
  • Businesses are being forced to turn down contracts for creating greener places, with over 50% of businesses in the sector reporting a hard-to-fill vacancy.
  • Biodiversity and nature recovery is driving increasingly high demand for landscape skills.
  • Skills gaps exist across all parts of the UK, but are particularly acute in the public sector and outside of the large cities, exacerbating regional inequalities.
  • The workforce is older and whiter than average in the UK, and an ageing workforce could potentially lead to worse skills shortages in the medium term.
  • The landscape sector is worth £24.6bn to the economy in Gross Value Added (GVA) terms and is growing faster than the wider economy average (18% compared to 10% since 2010).

Sue Morgan, chief executive of the Landscape Institute, said: “Previous green skills research has focused mainly on heavy industry and new technology. This report looks closer to home: at how we make the places where people live greener. This is vital, not only for halting climate change, but also adapting to its impacts, which we’re already feeling. The UK has set the right goals, now we need to look at how we can achieve them.”

The research undertaken by Metro Dynamics was the result of a national partnership between UK government agencies and industry, led by the Landscape Institute, and in partnership with the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI), Historic England, Historic Environment Scotland, Locri Recruitment, Natural England, Natural Resource Wales, NatureScot, and the Northern Ireland Department for Communities.

Jill Bullen, lead specialist advisor for Natural Resources Wales, said: “The Landscape Skills and Workforce Research is very much welcomed. It will equip us with the evidence and insight we need to create landscapes that are fit for the future. This improved understanding is essential for both our own profession and to support collaboration on these important national challenges.” 

The report reveals a high demand for greener cities, which are not only much nicer, healthier places to live, but also help protect the population from the effects of climate change. Existing skills shortages, however, are presenting challenges on the supply side and preventing this demand from being met.

Wayne Grills, CEO of the British Association of Landscape Industries, said: “This sector is on the frontlines when it comes to delivering solutions to international environmental challenges. Whether it’s understanding skills shortages, barriers to innovation, public sector crunch points, or other market failures which hold back the landscape industry, this research makes a case for renewed focus on landscape by national policymakers.”

All data from the survey and report is now available online here.

 

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