Canada’s environmental sector: Why young minds are essential for its growth

Wage-funding from ECO Canada supports employers & helps young talent get their foot in the door

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The environmental sector in Canada is growing. In fact, it grew by five per cent in 2020 alone while other industries shrunk due to the effects of the pandemic. But according to ECO Canada’s latest Labour Market Outlook Report, around 2.8 per cent of that current workforce is set to retire every year for the next five years.

With the demand for green solutions from both industry and consumers growing by the day, and much knowledge leaving the sector with those that retire, the environmental workforce is facing a big challenge - but an even bigger opportunity.

According to the report, which was funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program, there will be more than 100,000 job openings in the environmental sector in the next five years. Fresh green talent is now needed in a plethora of environmental fields, from air quality and natural resource management, to environmental policy and legislation. And as the Government of Canada works towards its goal of net zero emissions by 2050, there needs to be even more activity in the development, manufacturing and commercialization of clean technologies.

There are more green jobs that will open up in the future beyond the current environmental roles we see today. As consumers increasingly move towards making greener choices - from reducing plastic use to purchasing EV vehicles - and the energy, transportation, agriculture, and manufacturing sectors expand their adoption of solutions that decrease their current carbon footprint, skilled workers are needed to help make these solutions possible. In its report, ECO Canada forecasts that there will be critical
shortages in filling roles like:

● Utilities equipment operators and controllers
● Physical and life science professionals
● Construction managers
● Electrical and electronics engineers, and other professional engineers
● Landscape architects, urban and land use planners, and land surveyors
● Forestry technologists, technicians and conservation, and fishery officers
● Legislators and senior management
● Technicians, inspectors, and regulatory officers in public and environmental health and occupational health and safety

ECO Canada’s President and CEO, Kevin Nilsen, said: “There is a pressing need for current workers to reskill and upskill to make up for the expertise that the retiring workforce is taking with them. In our recent Trends Report, we found that employers are moving from traditional experience-based hiring to a skills-based hiring process - which says a lot.

“We need to be educating and encouraging more young environmental workers to fill the critical gaps that are coming in the labour market. That’s why we want more people to know about our wage funding and training subsidy programs.”

As the steward for Canada’s environmental workforce, ECO Canada provides wage funding programs which help to close the skills gap by providing young talent the opportunity to build skills on the job while subsidizing training costs to support employers. To date, ECO Canada has distributed over $90M in wage and training subsidies and helped to fill 10,000+ job placements.

“We recognize the hesitation employers may feel when hiring young or inexperienced talent, because of the extensive training and capital required,” said Nilsen. “There are so many young, passionate minds across Canada committed to developing green solutions, and with more and more seasoned professionals starting to retire, we knew we needed to help employers and young professionals alike by bridging the gap.”

The wage funding programs delivered by ECO Canada help employers place students or young professionals in a variety of jobs that fall under the umbrella of environmental work - ranging from science, technology, engineering, and math, and even business and digital skills. Additional funding is also available to help grow the participation of underrepresented groups and fill jobs in northern, rural, or remote areas.

Currently, ECO Canada offers the following wage funding and training subsidy programs for employers and young professionals:

● Student Work Placement, for STEAM or business students in co-op positions, funded by Employment and Social Development Canada
● Science & Technology Internship, for post-secondary graduates age 30 or younger in the natural resources sector, funded by Natural Resources Canada
● Science Horizons Youth Internship, for STEM graduates age 30 or younger, funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada
● Digital Skills For Youth, for digitally skilled youth aged 15-30, funded by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

ECO Canada’s wage funding is both helping employers with the capital to further expand their workforce, as well as uplifting young people and enabling them to find meaningful employment in the environmental sector.

But it doesn’t end there. ECO Canada is committed to working with industry, government, and academia to address skill shortages before this young talent starts looking for work. “We must make the right education and training options available to help build a talent pipeline for these roles early on,” said Nilsen.

“With Canada’s strong funding landscape, innovation mindset and highly educated minds out there, there's no doubt we can build a robust workforce that meets the current and future needs of our environmental sector."

If your organization provides environmental employment, or you work in an environmental job, you may be eligible for wage funding. For more information, visit the ECO Canada website.

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