OTTAWA—Jobs in the environmental sector are growing rapidly and Canada needs to catch up to train more workers to meet the demand, says a recent report.
The Canadian Council on Learning (CCL), the country’s national organization for educational research, says that in 2011 the demand for environmental employees is expected to increase by 8.1 percent, fuelled by rising interest in environmental issues.
Taking the latest figures from ECO Canada, an industry-led group that specializes in research, training, and certification of environmental careers, the council says the pool of qualified workers is not keeping up with the rising demand.
The council says that the number of graduates from post-secondary environmental programs dropped by 9 percent between 1999 and 2005. It also estimates that in the meteorological field alone this year there will be more than 3,000 unfilled jobs.
“The green economy is an undeniable part of our society and global culture, and it is critical that Canada is prepared to meet this sector’s need for skilled workers,” said Paul Cappon, CCL’s President and CEO, in a press release.
Careers in the green economy span a broad range. Some examples include botanist, geologist, oceanographer, landscape architect, petroleum engineer, eco tourist operator, environmental lawyer, park interpreter, policy analyst, and pollution control technologist.
ECO Canada estimates that the environmental sector accounted for more than half a million jobs across the country in 2006. By 2011, the demand in this sector is expected to increase by nearly 40,000 jobs, reaching more than 570,000.
Mr. Cappon notes that people who pursue environmental careers are “a special shade of green,” as they are drawn to their professions by personal belief rather than money or power.
“Students choose green careers primarily because of their personal interest in environmental issues, strong emotional connection towards the environment and passion about the environment and environmental issues,” the CCL report said.
While the CCL findings identify the impending skills shortage, they also point to some potential solutions.
Based on research on career choices in the environmental sector, CCL recommends stimulating students’ interest in the environment early as the key to increasing the supply of environmental program graduates.
The elementary- and middle-school years are important times for providing environmental education programs to children.
The CCL report suggests offering students experiential activities such as outdoor programs, field trips, and summer camps to stimulate a sense of empowerment and interest in environmental work.
Research suggests that both students and teachers may have a limited understanding of the diversity of jobs available in the environmental sector, and may even have stereotypical misconceptions about certain careers. They need better information about the sector and its career opportunities, CCL says.
Another challenge is the numerous career-related resources available that can cause indecision and anxiety without proper guidance.
Students need help to navigate and make sense of all the information and to work through the career decision-making process, recommends the report.