Australia’s transition toward a more environmentally sustainable society is being driven by political, economic, social and environmental imperatives. The transition brings challenges for the vocational education and training (VET) system to ensure that the Australian workforce is equipped with the skills required for new, and more sustainable, ways of working.

Under the direction of the Environmental Sustainability Expert Panel, Skills Impact worked with the Department to source information on usage and occupational outcomes from existing skill standards and qualifications, with a focus on environmental sustainability.

The Panel identified significant challenges concerning environmental sustainability and the operation of the VET sector:

  • Is addressing environmental sustainability compatible with the current domestic economic model?
  • Does environmental sustainability include identifiable and discrete occupations?
  • Can environmental sustainability skills and knowledge be transferred between industry contexts?
  • Is it possible to develop cross-industry solutions for this topic for the VET system?


The Panel consulted with all Industry Reference Committees (IRCs) with a focus on the above questions. The Panel compiled a report of their investigation, including a series of recommendations, and submitted this to the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) late in 2019. The project report was considered at the February 2020 meeting of the AISC.

An AISC communique from the Chair Emeritus Professor Tracey Horton AO commended the Panel on their work. What follows is a summary of the AISC decision regarding the steps to be taken to progress the recommendations 1-10.

Initially, one of the recommendations was to expand the Panel to coordinate future work on environmental sustainability, including considering the findings of the report and progressing priority areas for new training product development. This has been hard to implement during a time of shifting priorities of Skills Service Organisations and Industry Reference Committees in responding to the pandemic and to the announcement of, and subsequent activity involved in, the national VET reform agenda. Given the significant VET reform agenda that is underway for 2021, the Panel’s report will be most valuable in informing reform priorities and training package development. In particular, the highlighted constructive approaches to addressing environmental sustainability skills needs and whole of system approaches to developing these skills across the workforce which include evidence of opportunities to improve cross-sector collaboration and broader processes and practices.

Recommendations 11–16 have been referred to the Commonwealth’s VET Reform Taskforce for consideration. In addition, the AISC has directed the AISC Secretariat to share the Panel’s report with Industry Reference Committees and Skills Service Organisations to inform the review and development of training products.

Download Environmental Sustainability Expert Panel Report: Advice to the AISC 

Please click here to read a letter of response from the AISC to the Environmental Sustainability Expert Panel members.

Background of this Project

The Environmental Sustainability Expert Panel was convened by the AISC to provide advice to the AISC on:

  • The extent of industry demand for environmental sustainability skills and appropriate whole-of-system approaches to the development of these skills in the Australian workforce.
  • Strategies for ensuring that stakeholders from existing and emerging industries have input into training product development and reform, including options for ongoing advisory arrangements to inform training system responses to environmental sustainability.
  • Rationalising training products through the development of a plan and processes to enable the progression of recommendations from the 2017 Environmental Sustainability Case for Change in accordance with industry need.

The AISC appointed Skills Impact to support the work of the panel.

Environmental Sustainability Expert Panel Membership

The panel bought together experts from relevant industry sectors.

Ray FogolyanAustralian Building Sustainability Association
Mark GoodsellAustralian Industry Group
Nerida KeltonAustralian Institute of Packaging
Andrew PetersenBusiness Council for Sustainable Development Australia
Cathy PhelpsAgriculture industry

The panel also drew on input from other sectoral representatives and industry specialists to inform their thinking.

In 2017, environmental sustainability was identified by the AISC as one of eight cross-sector projects to address common skills needs, minimise duplication of units, consolidate existing units and remove units that are no longer being used.

A Project Reference Group supported by Skills Impact worked collaboratively with industry stakeholders to:

  • Compile research on current and future needs for environmental sustainability skills
  • Consult with industry to identify and validate common skills across industry areas
  • Identify training package components (units, skill sets, qualifications) that need to be developed, modified, adapted or removed
  • Produce a Case for Change.

The 2017 Case for Change analysed cross-industry environmental sustainability skill areas, in the light of existing training packages, to identify gaps and areas of duplication. The analysis identified existing sector-specific competencies that could be adapted for use across industries. Analysis also identified opportunities for the development of new cross-industry units of competency, skills sets or qualifications.

Download the 2017 Case for Change

Read more about the 2017 project to develop the Case for change

For further information, please contact us.


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