• Job Skills – Part 1: Technical Skills

  • This month I will discuss some of the skills most sought by employers in the environmental consulting field, specifically environmental site assessment and remediation. I surveyed a few colleagues in ownership and senior management positions to see what skill sets they are looking for in potential new hires at the junior to intermediate level. Thanks a lot to my friends and colleagues for their valuable input to this series of blogs. A big shout out to Jen Fletcher of H3M, Dave Wade of Premier Environmental Services and Chris Helmer of Hydrogeology Consulting Services. The desirable skill sets were grouped into ‘hard’ (technical) and ‘soft’ (people) skills, although there were some items like communication that bridged both the technical and people side. First up, the technical skills.

    Field Experience:
    Actual hands-on experience in conducting Phase One and Two Environmental Site Assessments and/or other related items such as contaminant management, remediation or monitoring is invaluable. Practical experience in logging boreholes, collecting soil and groundwater samples, drill supervision, hydrogeological monitoring (water level measurements, well pumping tests), and other aspects of field investigation are important as well. Familiarity with field monitoring and sampling equipment and techniques is a great asset. The ability to conduct or learn other tasks such as hazardous materials assessments, indoor air quality, and abatement monitoring are also helpful.

    Technical Writing and Communication:
    A large part of environmental consulting involves communication - with clients, staff, sub-contractors, other consultants and regulators. The ability to speak and write clearly (in one or more of Canada’a official languages), and to successfully communicate your observations, findings and conclusions so that all stakeholders can fully understand is vital. Of course the ability to use appropriate software platforms is important and almost everyone should be able to do this; but demonstrating that you can write a high-quality technical report or proposal, and keep exemplary project notes is even more important. More considerations for communication skills are included in a future section on ‘soft’ skills.

    Logistics & Project Coordination:
    Many projects in environmental consulting are complex, and can include multiple clients, and require working on multi-stage projects with a variety of sub-contractors and other consultants, and often outside lawyers, regulators and other stakeholders. Logistics, scheduling, project coordination and oversight are imperative in delivering projects accurately, on time and within budget. While junior and entry level staff wouldn’t be expected to manage such complex projects right away, everyone involved has an important part to play, and many other aspects of the project are interdependent on all players completing their part. A delay or mistake at one level can have huge implications in other areas of the project. Demonstrating expertise in project and time management can really elevate a potential job candidate’s chance of getting hired. If you don’t yet have such experience, you can still up your game by listening closely; doing what’s asked of you to the best of your ability; and cooperating/communicating/coordinating effectively with your other team members.

    Next month, I’ll review some of the desired ‘soft’ skills for potential job seekers.

    Bill Leedham, P. Geo., CESA
    Bill is the Head Instructor and Course Developer for the Associated Environmental Site Assessors of Canada (
    www.aesac.ca); and the founder and President of Down 2 Earth Environmental Services Inc. You can contact Bill at info@down2earthenvironmental.ca