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MARKET PULSE: Ecosave has been going great guns since we interviewed them a few years ago. Staff is now up to around 50 people and there’s plenty of work around, enough to hire more people on the back of a healthy uptick in staff last year. Even while most people were working from home. Preferences were for mainly project support engineers, electricians and other trades, to bring skills in house, a company source said.

The company, which has developed an energy as a service product and still has some of these contracts in place, is these days more focused on the pipeline of private and government work coming through.

Keeping the team busy is work such as the share of the Queensland Department of Education’s roll out of solar for schools.

The Advancing Clean Energy Schools program was initially designed to focus on wider sustainability upgrades such as incorporating solar lighting and better airconditioning, but was eventually scaled back to meeting solar targets set by the government.

The program involves around 800 primary and secondary schools over three years.

Ecosave’s share is mainly the south-east of the state with about 250 schools and 90 completed so far.

The overall program is understood to have started with a budget of about $50 million but now expanded to more than $168 million.

According to the Queensland state government state schools before the program spend more than $70 million each year on energy.

In February the state government announced an additional $71.1 million over three years to expand the program as part of the Cooler Cleaner Schools Program from 2020-21, mainly for new airconditioning installations.

In total the program will deliver about 61.4 megawatts of solar, about half of the renewable energy target by 2030.

Ecosave’s group managing director Robin Archibald said schools would save about 20 per cent of their energy costs.

The Queensland work is on the back of eight energy performance contracts with the NSW Department of Education

“Ecosave won this contract because of our long-time commitment and deep expertise in the education space. Our experience with NSW Department of Education over the last five years has been invaluable in developing the intellectual property and expertise in implementing complex projects in sensitive environments,” Mr Archibald said.

Jobs market is strong

Elsewhere, sustainability recruitment specialist Richard Evans says work at the technical and environmental end of sustainability is firing. Especially with corporates that have projects approved and who now need skill sets in ecology and other science/environmental fields to deliver on obligations.

“There is lots of infrastructure work going on,” Evans says. “Property is still reasonably busy. There is still activity (despite this week’s lockdown in Melbourne).”

Driving jobs demand is also climate risk and the need to meet modern slavery requirements. While work along these lines might have been outsourced previously companies are now wanting their own inhouse staff, Evans says.

In the broader sustainability realm, one role he’s recently filled is Dr Chrisanta Muli, previously with Oxfam, for the chief executive position of what he describes as a “phenomenal organisation”, the not-for-profit One Girl.

The organisation’s goal, to promote the welfare, education and success of girls, has been identified as one of the most powerful ways to achieve climate action, Evans reminds us, noting the work of Drawdown Project.

Evans also tips that as people start to drift back to the office, or wanting to, there may be more demand for office space rather than less.

“I’m having a lot of conversations with people and they’re a bit tired of working from home.”

He thinks this will translate to demand for more space to avoid activity-based working, though it’s pure speculation from his own observations, he hastens to add, and not based on research.

“Unless you’re doing a deep clean every night, I don’t think organisations will be comfortable to move back to activity based working.” So they’ll need more space rather than less, even if some people will still work some of the time from home.

What we need is FOMO for the office

Tica Hessing, human geographer and workplace strategy manager at Cushman & Wakefield, tends to agree with Evans that people want to come back to work at least part of the time.

New research also underscores the value of being in the office, Hessing says, especially if you think that collaboration and meetings – incidental ones in particular – are important for the exchange of ideas.

If your company or organisation precludes remote working or simply doesn’t have a policy the chance of two people meeting each other incidentally is about 88 per cent, she says. If the workplace has a remote working policy the changes of that incidental meeting drop to a miserable 19 per cent.

The question, Hessing says, is “how we can create structures for a flexible working policy to encourage people to be in the office at the right time time to meet the right people.”

Especially for young people who might need that incidental learning or encouragement from older people when they’re starting out in their work life.

Hessing says we need to create a kind of “fear of missing out” around the office. Perhaps with interesting collaboration or engagement spaces. Clearly there’s some job opportunities for creatives here.

One idea flagged in this morning’s newspapers was physical meditation spaces, or  “luxury gyms – but purely for your mind”, said an article, pointing to an example of this at Barangaroo in Sydney.

Our pick of the jobs

Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia is looking for a principal technical sustainability advisor. The job will cover Australia and New Zealand.

Civil engineering company Jacobs is searching for a Melbourne-based environmental planner.