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Green jobs market runs against downturn

Green jobs market runs against downturn

The UK recruitment market might be on its knees as widespread redundancies and hiring freezes begin to bite, but for those recruitment firms focused on green jobs the outlook could hardly be more upbeat.

Green recruitment agency Acre Resources has today announced the opening of its first office in the US, while reporting that the UK green jobs market grew 50 per cent last year and has so far this year shown no sign slowing.

Speaking to BusinessGreen.com, the company's managing director Andy Cartland said that despite the recession and the collapse in the wider recruitment market, the outlook for the next year remained remarkably positive.

"The most successful quarter in our history was from November to January, and January was our second-most successful month since we were established in 2003, " he said. "Even in September last year when the financial crisis was really kicking off, we achieved our highest number of placements, with 40 per cent more roles filled than the average for the previous six months."

Overall, the green jobs market remains relatively small - Acre employs 17 staff and typically places fewer than 100 people a month in green roles - but Cartland is confident that while other sectors are contracting, all the signs point to the continued rapid expansion of the green jobs market.

"We are placing a lot of people in new climate-change strategy roles and are still placing good numbers in corporate social responsibility (CSR) roles," he said. "There is lots of legislation, like the upcoming Carbon Reduction Commitment, that is forcing firms to recruit, and when you look at what Ed Miliband and Gordon Brown are saying, the government is also committed to creating more green jobs."

However, Cartland had a word of caution for those seeking to fill the growing number of green job vacancies, warning that the sector is becoming increasingly competitive.

"People need to understand that it is a highly competitive market, particularly at the graduate level," he observed. "Relevant qualifications are typically needed and successful applicants need to be very proactive."

He added that environmentally-focused professionals seeking to target more senior green roles are increasingly facing stiff competition from executives with experience in other, more commercially focused, areas of the business.

"We are seeing people from pretty high up the corporate ladder being moved across to head up green departments and initiatives," he said. "Businesses now appreciate that a good green strategy is now "a need to have", rather than "a nice to have" and as a result they are appointing experienced business execs to take charge."

Acre is now seeking to expand into the US and has opened its first office in Chicago in an attempt to tap into a US green jobs market which, if President Obama is true to his word, will soon employ five million people.

Cartland said that Chicago was becoming an increasingly important green business hub following the launch last year of Mayor Richard Daley's Climate Change Action, and would provide the company with an effective route into the US market.

"We have appointed one person to establish the office and once we have had some early success we will look to expand the head count," he said. "We need to be aware that expanding in a recession has risks, so we are looking to take a sustainable approach to expansion."

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