Queen Elizabeth II Has Banned Plastic Straws and Bottles From Royal Estates

Queen Elizabeth II has declared war — on plastic — with a new waste plan put into place across the royal estates.

The environmentally-conscious move was said to be inspired by nature documentarian and naturalist Sir David Attenborough, after the pair worked together on a documentary about wildlife in the Commonwealth, according to The Telegraph.

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Buckingham Palace has said the royal household has a “strong desire to tackle the issue” and would do so by cutting back plastics, such as straws and plastic bottles.

A spokesman for the Palace said, “Across the organisation, the royal household is committed to reducing its environmental impact.

“As part of that, we have taken a number of practical steps to cut back on the use of plastics,” he said.

These steps would include phasing out plastic straws in public cafes and banning them completely from staff dining areas.

Royal cafe takeaway food containers will now be compostable or biodegradable, while those working and living within Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh will only be able to use crockery and glasses, or recyclable cups.

The initiative comes after the EU announced plans to make all plastic in Europe recyclable or reusable by 2030.

The Queen’s stance follows that of her son Prince Charles, who often talks about environmental issues, including the damage plastic garbage is doing to the oceans.

Last year he said climate change was “catastrophically underestimated” and urged that world leaders act urgently to protect our marine environments.

Prince Charles has a long history of environmental advocacy and established the International Sustainability Unit in 2010 to address major environmental challenges across the globe including marine degradation, deforestation and animal conservation.

He has even weighed in on the degradation of the Great Barrier Reef, saying: “The fact that significant portions of the Great Barrier Reef on Australia’s eastern coast have been severely degraded or lost over the last few years is both a tragedy and also, I would have thought, a very serious wakeup call,” he said.

According to Cleanup.org.au, an estimated 1 trillion plastic bags are used and discarded worldwide each year — and many of those bags are only used once.

Australians alone use around 5 billion plastic bags a year — with some 50 million entering the litter stream.

Single-use bags will soon be banned across all states and territories in Australia, except NSW. Meanwhile, major supermarkets — Coles, Woolworths and IGA — have already announced they will phase out single-use plastic bags this year.

Source: Renew Economy

B Corp of the Week: BRM Projects

We love being a B Corporation for a number of reasons, but the incredible sense of community among like-minded, purpose-driven businesses definitely has to top our list. For this reason, we want to contribute to the support of the organisations that are striving to make a difference by sharing with you some of our favourites B’s!

To kick off this series we interviewed Steve Schmidt, CEO at BRM Projects; a business operating in the architectural and planning space who provide search, fitout and relocation guidance. With a large focus on supporting Not for Profit and small to medium businesses, BRM are a perfect example of tailoring industry expertise to create positive impact across the sectors in which they operate.

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BRM Projects offer a unique mix of expertise. What were you doing before this? What pushed you to make the change?

“BRM Projects was established to provide quality property solutions to SME and Not for Profits. Over the years, our team has grown allowing us to offer a diverse array of core and supplementary services that enable a business to create a workplace that works well.”

What notable positive outcomes have arisen from past projects?

“BRM Projects works with a wide cross-section of commercial businesses and Not for Profits and

…we rate the success of a project based on the improvement to a business’ culture, efficiency and productivity.

This is different for every client – it could mean renegotiating a lease so a client has more money to invest into their cause, or it could be redesigning an outdated layout that enables greater collaboration and staff retention.”

What is your vision for the future of the architecture and planning industry? What do you want to see happen?

“As technology continues to infuse further into our daily lives, workplaces that champion creativity and strategic thinking understand the importance of a designing considered and social-led spaces.

Already we have seen a shift in the design approach, including:

Bright, colourful and playful spaces that take their cues from kindergartens – to embrace and nourish creativity;

Soft, subtle and luxurious finishes that allow you to relax and enjoy the space as is you were at home, and;

Amenities galore, making you feel you have a personal concierge at the fanciest hotel – thereby allowing you to focus on work, rather than life-admin.

The modern office will focus more on community, connections and spaces for idea sharing – something that difficult to replicate over email or video, and definitely cannot be achieved when working alone from home.

Based off this principle, the humble office desk will no longer be the primary fixture. In its place, there will be alternate zones to compensate – a variety of meeting rooms, phone booths, breakout lounges, and of course the clichéd ping pong table is here to stay.

These spaces, combined with the ideas of wellness and mindfulness will become necessary platforms we will need to embrace enabling us to live a faster-paced, more creative and purpose driven existence.”


Currently undergoing an office fitout of our own here at Talent Nation, we understand the importance of industry expertise when it comes optimising a space in terms of comfortability and that “wellness” factor. BRM share our core value of sustainability, and as a certified B Corp also share our commitment of using the power of business to create positive environmental and social impact.

Got questions about any of the above? We’re keen to chat to more B Corps about what their certification means to them, and how their organisation is living out these values. Connect with us here.

Clean Energy Crunch Time … Where are the Workers to Build $10bn in Solar and Wind Projects?

There’s good news and bad news in the world of clean energy. First the good news. The solar PV and wind projects required for Australia to hit its 2020 Renewable Energy Target are being built. In fact, there’s a surplus. The bad news is that there is simply not enough skilled talent to handle the backlog of work.

The latest estimate from the Clean Energy Council suggests 5,500 jobs will be created to complete more than 50 wind and solar projects worth more than $10 billion.

“It’s busy all over the place,” says ACRWorld director of renewable energy Rob Lawrence. “Everyone knew this was coming. The industry will cope, but it’s certainly very tight.”

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At recruitment consultancy Polyglot global head of renewable energy and infrastructure Jan Rieche thinks constraints in the talent pool may test the limits of some projects.

Everyone knew 2018 would be a busy year, says Rieche, but things got “crazy busy” about November last year and haven’t let up. Polyglot’s seeing inquiries from across the board – EPCs, contractors, development companies, project finance companies, smaller contractors – and Rieche expects things will get even busier when workers are required to bolt hundreds of thousands of panels in place.

“This will put immense cost pressure on EPCs and eventually also developers,” Rieche says. “If you marry that problem with increasing panel and general equipment prices, it might squeeze their margins quite a bit. This year will show us who did their planning and financial modelling really well and who didn’t.”

Rising panel prices are a function of rising demand, as manufacturers channel supply to international markets where margins are favourable. “In some countries, even in India, the margins are bigger [for panel manufacturers than in Australia],” he says. “So they send to where the margins are bigger.”

Rieche predicts some projects that are pinched by rising costs may even be sold entirely or partly to other investors or developers. “I’m pretty sure we’ll see some,” he says.

Bees to honey

At Bradman Recruitment Group director Michael Green is taking calls from companies looking to enter Australia or existing players after new staff. He admits some of the established companies in the Australian renewables market are “raising an eyebrow” over what work there will be for any new entrants and how they will win market share, but the ones he’s spoken to are very positive. “I don’t know quite [which side] to believe. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle of that,” Green says.

Other than the more traditional wind and solar, inquiries from overseas have come from companies working in energy efficiency, cryptocurrencies and energy retail, he says. “We’re even doing some recruitment for a new EPC that’s entering the market from the US.”

The most gaping skills shortage is developers, says Green, the skilled talent who find sites, negotiate with landholders, government and authorities, design power purchase and offtake agreements and apply for grid connection and permits. “You’ve really got to dig very deep to fill a development role at the moment,” he says.

Salaries offered for developers have risen. Nine months to a year ago he says it would take about $150,000 to lure an experienced developer. Now it’s more like $175,000 to $200,000. “And even then it’s not easy.”

As Australia gears up to replace its fleet of ageing coal-fired generation, developers are scouring the country non-stop to find new sites that would fit renewable energy projects. “There is full employment in developers,” he says. It’s full steam ahead, and Green admits employers seldom make mention to him of the National Energy Guarantee or what will happen beyond the 2020 Renewable Energy Target.

Up against the tunnellers

The recruitment market has been “incredibly busy”, says ACRWorld director of renewable energy Rob Lawrence, with an emphasis on construction of wind and solar farms mainly on the east coast and in South Australia, with some in the west as well. The challenge is to fill positions, especially as it is also a boom time in infrastructure.

“It’s got to the point where really the industry is at maximum capacity now, so anybody who has experience in wind or solar is employed and people are just trying to pinch off each other,” Lawrence says.

The other way to relieve that pressure is to recruit from overseas or from other industries. It was once the time that workers left over from a waning mining sector could be attracted to clean energy projects in regional areas. When you’ve been working on energy infrastructure projects or at mines far from the state capitals it’s not such a jolt to the system to take a job on a wind or solar farm. Since then, work has begun on vast infrastructure projects in the cities.

“There’s a renewable energy boom happening but in Sydney and Melbourne there are hundreds of billions of dollars worth of intrastructure projects going on at the same time,” Lawrence says. “Our company recruits across both areas – and those areas are just booming.”

In the minds of some jobseekers there are a couple of forces that may appear to be aligned against renewables: infrastructure work pays better, and in the current market there are plenty of roles offered in the cities or very near them. “That’s really who the renewables sector, from a construction perspective, is competing with.”

In this market, Lawrence says recruiters have to rely on networks of contacts established over the long term. A prospective worker’s skills and flexibility about location must be matched with the developer’s requirements, all within the constraints of a tight labour market. “It’s tricky,” he says. “Everybody’s looking for the same sort of people: civil and electrical project engineers, construction site managers, site supervisors – and those people are easily transferrable into infrastructure projects and other projects, so they’re not all gagging to get into renewables.”

But let’s not overlook the clean energy sector’s pulling power, where so many who work in it are happy to admit they were attracted by a personal sense of purpose. Everyone knows clean energy is good energy – that it can be done and so it needs to be done. To take part in that revolution is to take part in a massive cleansing of the economy and all that drives it. “That attracts a lot of people.”

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Visa welcome

Compared with other types of generation wind and solar plants are pretty quick to build. If workers are thin on the ground in Australia and need to be sourced from overseas, developers will be hoping the paperwork around visas can be processed quickly. That’s not been the case recently, however, and Lawrence says processing has been “very slow”, with applications taking up to 12 weeks.

Changes to the visa requirements in 2016, where the 457 was abolished and replaced with the Temporary Skill Shortage visa, the requirement for skilled workers, had a knock-on impact, he says. Well-resourced developers in the infrastructure sector have plenty of experience managing applications and guiding recruits through the visa process whereas some companies in the renewables sector may struggle with it. Some may even shy away from recruiting offshore simply because it’s seen as a bit tricky.

The Temporary Skill Shortage visa is offered in three variants: a short-term stream, up to two years; a medium-term stream, up to four years, and; a labour agreement stream for sponsored migration, with the possibility of permanent residence.

The attitude towards finding talent overseas varies from client to client, says Green at Bradman Recruitment, and some are “dead against it”. For them, the rigmarole involved with applying for visas and relocating workers and families is a step too far. As a recruiter he can see the benefit of sometimes looking offshore for the right person, even if a few extra costs are incurred. Immigration and relocation can add about $20,000 to a package, but that could work out being good value if it means an employer finds exactly who it’s looking for. “If you have an open mind I think you’ll have a stronger short list,” he says. “I guess each company has to make that decision for itself.”

Hold on to your talent

As demand for workers exceeds supply, wages are beginning to feel some upward pressure and employers are taking caution to hold on to the staff they have. Some companies are placing key employees on retention plans or increasing notice periods in an effort to retain staff. Any increase in salaries will be reflected in higher project costs, but there haven’t been any major blow-outs – so far.

If more workers in regional areas were offered training in renewables the job market wouldn’t be so tight today, but it’s a bit late for that now. Once approval and financial backing comes through, every developer wants its wind and solar plants built as soon as possible, and they’ll want workers who have done it before. For them, there isn’t the time to train whoever is looking for work in the area. “It’s almost as though they’ve thought about this too late [and they] should have been training people two-plus years ago,” says Lawrence at ACRWorld. “But that’s just not how it’s worked.”

It’s a good time for Australian workers attracted overseas to think about returning, especially from the UK, for example, where the renewables sector has been hit hard. A trip back home could pay off, although the number of Australian clean energy workers roaming the world is a drop in the ocean compared with the number required back at home to complete the backlog of projects.

What comes next?

The rush to build clean energy generation isn’t so much driven by uncertainty over the National Energy Guarantee, says Rieche at Polyglot, but by the Renewable Energy Target. “It’s a question of can we build it and commission and connect it on time,” he says. “And with what kind of margin, if any, can we build it.” Panel price and cost of labour will be the two major pain points.

After the RET’s been met he expects a lull in the industry, but it won’t “fall off a cliff”. Companies that managed the building boom will have learned valuable lessons along the way and be faster and more efficient at delivering projects, including managing labour costs. There may not be as many projects after 2020 but those who are building them will have a much better understanding of the costs and structures. “Those projects, most likely including storage, will be able to compete definitely with coal-fired and potentially with gas,” he says.

It will be a different landscape, where some companies will exit Australia in search of the next boom market, possibly Africa, and the rest will progress with a little more confidence and perhaps test the merchant market. “If you do it right in the next year-and-a-half – and you’re happy to work some crazy hours this year and suffer a couple of blows as well as the good times – then I think there is a great opportunity for local businesses to learn and for overseas businesses to localise their workforces more and more.”

So, now that we’re all up to date on the job market, let’s get back to work.


Source: Eco Generation

Report Finds Shift to Cheap Electric Vehicles Feasible in Australia

The CEO of Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) says Australians would do well to consider switching to cheap electric vehicles within the next ten years.

Vanessa Petrie said in a Daily Telegraph report that there are many good reasons to make the switch. These are also detailed in BZE’s 98-page ‘Electric Vehicles Report’ released in August 2017.

While electric vehicles cost more to buy than regular cars, they also cost less to run. This is consistent with information from the Electric Vehicle Council that the cost of running a fuel-powered vehicle is almost four times that of an electric one.

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Electric vehicles are also cheaper to maintain, due to having fewer moving parts than internal combustion engines. The cost of electric vehicle batteries is also falling. According to the report, prices are 75 per cent lower than they were in 2010. And this price drop is expected to continue.

Reduced emissions & pollution with cheap electric vehicles

Vehicles contribute approximately 6 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia, which would be eliminated in a switch to all electric cars. The reduction in emissions could also be as high as 8 per cent if the switch includes regional passenger vehicles.

Lower emissions would give us numerous other benefits too. These include cleaner and healthier air, fewer deaths from emissions, reduced noise pollution and less reliance on imported fuels.

Recharging getting easier and faster

Most car trips in Australia are under 120 km, which is within the range of contemporary electric cars.

Owners of solar panels and energy storage batteries could save even more by powering up their electric vehicles from their solar power systems.

More charging stations are also being built, including Queensland’s Electric Super Highway launched in 2017.

Renewable energy growth in Australia means we could easily generate the extra energy supplies needed for electric cars.

While electric vehicles may cost more to buy right now, the overall findings of the report are that this will be offset by the considerable savings and benefits that electric vehicles offer over time.


Source: Energy Matters

It’s Time to Employ Conscious Decision-Making When You Shop

Ethical fashion can sometimes feel like an overwhelming topic. And rightfully so — it refers to the darker side of fashion (think factory conditions, animal rights and the environment).

And while it’s easy to turn a blind eye if it means you can still shop your favourite fast fashion labels, now is the time to take a stand.

Before you freak out, becoming an ethical shopper doesn’t mean you have to compromise on style or give up treating yourself to a cheaper trend piece every now and then, it just requires conscious decision making.

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Below are six simple changes you can make that will allow you to wear your wardrobe free of guilt, and be a part of creating a sustainable future. Ethical shopping, it’s the perfect fit. Here’s how.

1. Do Your Research

Educating yourself on the brands you love and buy is an important step in becoming a conscious shopper. Doing your research will shed some light on how a brand treats the environment, employees and animals and equip you to make an informed decision. The only issue? Finding trustworthy information.
Enter, Good On You, an App that rates brands on how ethical they are, and offers up better alternatives for consideration. The news feed on the homepage will also keep you up to date with brand and industry ethics-related news.

2. Follow Diet Prada

Not as obvious an issue as sustainability or fair workplace conditions — but equally as important — is the intellectual property of designers. Brands that create knock-offs are rife, and while buying their products is a cheap way to achieve a high-end look, it’s not ethical. Diet Prada (if you haven’t heard of it, where on Earth have you been?!) is an Instagram account dedicated to calling out fashion copycats — follow it, and try to support designers who create original work.

3. Invest in Quality Products

Although lots of fast fashion giants have taken positive steps to protect the environment and implement fair working conditions, there’s still a lot of work to be done. While more expensive at the time, investing in higher-quality items is always the more sustainable choice.

4. Shop Vintage

Although we will always love the thrill of scouring local op-shops for hidden gems, the internet has made vintage shopping even more exciting. The birth of websites like The Real Real and Vestiaire Collective means we now have access to vintage pieces from all over the world and can shop without the fear of acquiring a fake.

5. Let Someone Else Love Your Clothes

Whether you’re into vintage shopping or not, recycling your own clothes is an easy way to reduce your fashion footprint. Grab one of your pals and set up a market stall to sell your clothes and accessories (I can confirm that playing shop for a day is a good time) or donate them to a charity.

6. Go Natural

Clothes made from synthetic fibres can take up to 40 years to decompose — that’s a really long time. Investing in pieces made from cotton and wool for example, has a lesser impact on the environment (not to mention they are way more breathable!).

Source: Pop Sugar

Port Augusta Solar Thermal Power Plant will be Biggest of its Type in the World

South Australia’s reputation as the solar hub of Australia is growing after the state government approved construction of a solar thermal power plant near Port Augusta.

The 150 MW solar thermal power plant will also be the biggest of its kind in the world. The project will create 650 local jobs during construction and 50 ongoing positions.

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The solar thermal process uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto a receiver on top of a 220-metre tower. This heats molten salt within the tower to 565°C, generating enough steam to drive a turbine and create electricity.

Traditionally, Port Augusta was a hub for coal-fired generation. However, the new solar plant is cementing the transition away from coal. The process started with the closure of Alinta Energy’s coal station in 2016 and the Leigh Creek coal mine in 2015.

Solar thermal power puts downward pressure on prices

Acting Energy Minister Chris Picton described the solar thermal power plant project as “world-leading”.

“[It] will deliver clean, dispatchable renewable energy to supply our electrified rail, hospitals, schools and other major government buildings,” he said.

“This approval triggers an investment of about $650 million, will create a total of about 700 construction and ongoing jobs in Port Augusta. It will add new competition to the South Australian market, putting downward pressure on power prices.”

Court decision curbs distributor charges

South Australian electricity consumers had another win this week when the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) defeated a bid by SA Power Networks (SAPN) to increase costs.

The Full Federal Court yesterday confirmed the AER’s October 2015 revenue decision for SAPN. As a result, consumers will receive savings delivered in the original decision.

SAPN had proposed recovering $4.5 billion from consumers over the five-year regulatory period commencing on 1 July 2015. However, the AER determined that the distributor required $3.8 billion in order to deliver safe, secure and reliable power.

“We welcome today’s decision, in this long-running legal dispute, which means South Australian consumers will get the savings from our original 2015 decision,” said AER chair Paula Conboy.

“At a time when rising energy costs are a serious concern to households not just in South Australia but across the nation, the AER is working to make all Australian energy consumers better off now and in the future.”


Source: Energy Matters

Tesla Says Solar Roof Production Has Started in Buffalo

Tesla Inc said on Tuesday it began manufacturing its premium solar roof tiles at the company’s Buffalo, New York factory last month and has started surveying the homes of customers who made a deposit of $1,000 to reserve the product last year.

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The solar roof, which generates electricity without the need for traditional rooftop panels, is a cornerstone of the electric vehicle maker’s strategy to sell a fossil-fuel-free lifestyle under the luxury Tesla brand. Tesla unveiled the product in October 2016 as it sought to acquire solar installer SolarCity.

At that time, Tesla said the product could be rolled out as soon as the summer of 2017. In November, Tesla founder Elon Musk said the product was going through a six-month testing process, saying “it just takes a little while to get this behemoth rolling.”

More than a dozen Tesla employees, including Musk and Chief Technical Officer JB Straubel, had the solar roofs installed on their homes last year as part of an initial pilot program.

Tesla started taking orders for the solar roof tiles in May by asking homeowners to put down a $1,000 deposit via its website. Tesla would not disclose how many reservations it had received for the solar roof. The product will be installed on some customer rooftops in the coming months.

The company has said its solar roofs would cost between 10 and 15 percent less than an ordinary new roof plus traditional solar panels.

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Tesla is collaborating with its longstanding battery partner, Japan’s Panasonic Corp, to manufacture solar products at the Buffalo factory. There are about 500 employees working at the site currently, Tesla said.

The companies began production of traditional solar panels at the site last year, but they have not yet been installed on rooftops. The company said it will achieve more than 1 gigawatt of cell and module production in Buffalo, and possibly as much as double that, but gave no timeline for meeting the target.

Tesla said its primary focus is increasing production of its Model 3 sedan. The company said last week it would likely build about 2,500 Model 3s a week by the end of the first quarter, half the number it had earlier promised.


Source: Reuters

Renewable Energy to Power Stawell Farm a “World’s First”

The Victorian State government has stated that it will build a major new wind farm with battery storage in Western Victoria that will power the expansion of Stawell’s Nectar Farms.

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This project will make the advanced agriculture facility what the state government calls “the world’s first ever crop farm” to be completely powered by renewable energy.

The 15-year Support Agreement between the Labor Government and Neoen Australia will deliver the Bulgana Green Power Hub – an integrated energy project of a scale and technology never been seen before.

More than 1,300 jobs will be created – including 270 direct ongoing jobs in the agricultural sector and 10 direct ongoing jobs in the renewable energy industry – all located in the Stawell region.

Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio said,  “We’re delivering affordable, secure and clean energy, which is powering new jobs right across our state.”

The wind farm and battery storage system will provide reliable and affordable renewable energy to unlock the development of a major new advanced agriculture facility in Stawell, with a total expected investment of $665 million.

The farm will use the latest in hydroponic glasshouse and plant technology to create a 40 hectare, facility to supply the highest quality vegetables into domestic and international markets.

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The co-located 204MW Bulgana Green Power Hub will be backed up by a 20MW battery, making the farms expansion a reality by providing the secure and affordable energy that Nectar Farms needs for its hydroponic greenhouses.

The project will help secure the Labor Government’s greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets of 15 to 20 per cent (from 2005 levels) by the year 2020.


Source: Manufacturer’s Monthly

WWF Develops Blockchain Solution to Improve Transparency in Tuna Industry

The World Wildlife Fund in Australia, Fiji and New Zealand have joined forces to stamp out illegal fishing and slave labour in the tuna fishing industry using blockchain technology.

In partnership with US-based software company ConsenSys and information and communications technology implementer TraSeable, WWF has been able to help tuna fishing and processing company Sea Quest Fiji to track using blockchain the journey of the tuna from when it is caught, through processing and to the distributor.

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WWF is now in discussions with tuna retailers to complete the “bait-to-plate” cycle with the hopes of creating a QR code for consumers on tuna tins that would tell them if the tuna had been sourced sustainably and ethically.

WWF Australia chief executive Dermot O’Gorman said the technology would likely be ready for commercial use in the tuna industry by the end of the year.

“The next phase is to work with the retail sector. We’ve worked on the front end and now we need to look at the rest of the supply chain, right up to the plate,” he said.

“There’s a number of technical and logistical challenges … but we’re in discussions with a few retailers … and through the course of this year I think we’ll get from bait to plate and be able to address the sustainability and human rights issues.”

According to WWF, commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous professions in the world with a high rate of injury and sometimes death due to unsafe working conditions.

A report from January 2014 found members of a South Korean fishing vessel called Oyang 70 were often beaten or punished for little or no reason and would be made to stand on deck during extreme weather conditions with no food or water. Crew members also reported incidents of sexual harassment and rape. These allegations came to light when the ship sank, killing six men.

Sea Quest volunteered to trial the technology as the Fijian fishery has made a name for itself in the market based on its commitment to sustainability and ethical practices. It exports predominantly to the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

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“From the moment the fish comes aboard the vessel the blockchain technology captures their journey in a digital manner and allows every person through the supply chain to see the story of that fish,” Sea Quest chief executive Brett “Blu” Haywood said.

Mr O’Gorman said consumers wanted to shop ethically and the development of the blockchain technology would enable them to do so in the near future.

“We see blockchain technology as being able to step up the transparency in the supply chain, which previously was difficult or quite expensive to do,” he said.

“It’s a very exciting revolution that’s about to transform the industry and will deliver multiple sustainable development goals.”

WWF is also investigating the use of blockchain for other seafood industries and for fundraising initiatives. It also held two hackathons in 2017 to develop solutions to environmental sustainability issues using new technologies.

Mr O’Gorman said it was supporting a start-up that had emerged from its second hackathon to develop a blockchain for charities to show consumers how their donations were being spent.

Source: Financial Review

Shortage of Environmental Health Officers Points to Rise of Climate Health Impacts

MARKET PULSE: There’s a big shortage of environmental health officers in Australia with Central Queensland University graduates quick to find 100 per cent placement. The reason why there is a shortage does not make for happy holiday reading, but it does make for critically important and urgent thinking.

Australia needs to train more environmental health officers to cope with the increased prevalence of disasters and disease outbreaks due to climate change, say leaders in the field.

Environmental Health Australia national vice president Philip Swain said research undertaken back in the 1980s into climate change and its impact is now coming to fruition.

“It’s amazing how accurate some of those predictions have been,” he said. “We’re already seeing that happen with mosquito-borne disease. The spread of Barmah Forest [virus], Ross River virus and to a lesser extent Murray Valley encephalitis in Australia is a classic case of something that has been influenced by climate change.

“It’s come across the top of Australia and now Barmah Forest and Ross River virus are endemic through Western Australia, right throughout the south west – that just didn’t exist 30 years ago. There was no such thing as Ross River Virus in WA. And that sort of thing is undoubtedly going to get worse.”

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Central Queensland University environmental health academic Dr Lisa Bricknell said with rising temperatures, there’ll be more health problems linked to environmental conditions, including more food-borne illnesses like salmonella and larger mosquito-breeding zones, leading to dengue, Ross River and Zika virus.

“In addition, we’re having more frequent natural events leading to disasters, and environmental health officers (EHOs) have an important role in both prevention and recovery.”

Concern is mounting as local and state government departments struggle to find enough qualified environmental health officers (EHOs). In fact, global jobs site Indeed recently revealed that positions for environmental health officers are actually the hardest roles to fill in Australia.

While trained EHOs had been coming from Ireland, changes to the skilled migrant visa has halted the flow of graduates arriving from Dublin University. In addition, many EHOs are retiring.

Dr Bricknell said most of the shortages are at the local government level.

“They’ll advertise and quite often people will move from one local government to another and then that will still obviously leave a gap somewhere,” she said. “Quite often they are in regional and remote areas.

“They might not be the one going out and spreading insecticide but they are certainly going to be the one keeping an eye on breeding areas,” she said. “If you don’t have an EHO to keep an eye on the breeding areas you end up with more cases of – potentially in the northern climes – dengue fever.”

And the Zika virus is causing bigger concerns

The Zika virus is also a major concern.

“If it got into our mosquito population, we could have an issue with that,” she said.

Mr Swain agreed that regional and remote locations were struggling to fill positions.

“Some of that is tyranny of distance because you’re asking people to do work over vast areas,” he said.

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Mr Swain, who is based in Perth, works on a contractual basis for the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku, covering millions of hectares of Aboriginal land in Western Australia. He goes out in the field for eight to 10 days and does his office-based work from Perth.

This is not a typical model and he says regional areas are finding it difficult to fill roles because of contractions in local government and an inability to offer competitive packages with housing and motor vehicles.

Mr Swain noted that half the top 10 hardest roles to fill in Australia were health or allied health professions. He believes the federal government needs to contribute more funding to training.

“To me, that’s quite telling that those positions are hard to fill because there’s not enough people to fill them – the reason there’s not enough people available to fill them is because they’re difficult and expensive professions to train people to do.

“If I have a personal criticism about the way the way niche professions are being supplied in Australia, it’s about the university sector and how it’s being forced into essentially providing courses that make money.

“Applied science-based courses where you have to put a small group of students into laboratories to learn are not profitable for universities. Putting 200 people into a lecture theatre is profitable.”

Rockhampton pioneers a cadetship program to help with shortages

According to Dr Bricknell, collaboration between local government and universities is going some way to addressing the shortage. For example, Rockhampton Regional Council pioneered a cadetship program.

“They have found it very difficult over the years to recruit environmental health staff,” she said. “They came to us and said, ‘If you guys are willing to do a degree, we’d like to talk about hiring cadets and actually putting them through part-time while they work with us.’

“Now Rockhampton have been doing that for quite a number of years and it’s extremely successful.

“That ‘grow your own’ thing is something we’re really trying to work with councils on. Consider finding someone who looks like a good candidate locally, put them on as a trainee or a cadet, and then put them through university with us. You’re likely to find someone who’ll stay.”

Increasing the profile of the profession among school leavers is also important.

“It’s a profession that people don’t know very much about, but the potential for employment is really high,” Dr Bricknell said.

Degree programs struggling

This lack of awareness means the degree programs are struggling.

“Tasmania is in the process of losing their degree; there’s no undergraduate degree in South Australia anymore,” she said.

NSW and Victoria both have one accredited degree, while WA has one undergraduate degree and one postgraduate degree. Queensland is spoiled for choice with both Griffith University and the University of Sunshine Coast offering on-campus degrees and Central Queensland University offering on-campus degrees in Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton and Bundaberg, as well as off-campus degrees.

The demand for EHOs is proving lucrative for CQUniversity graduates, who have a 100 per cent employment record within their first 12 months after graduation.


Source: The Fifth Estate