Resource Works caught up with Jessica Kaknevicius (pictured), vice president of community engagement, Sustainable Forestry Initiative and Project Learning Tree Canada, to hear about innovation and new ideas in forestry.
Can you give us a quick overview of what Project Learning Tree Canada is?
Project Learning Tree Canada (PLT Canada), an initiative of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), advances environmental education and career pathways using trees and forests as windows on the world. We strive to create a world that values and benefits from sustainably managed forests and the great outdoors. One of the ways in which we are achieving this is by supporting youth in the exploration of their career pathways, right now focused on the Government of Canada-funded “Green Jobs” initiative. This initiative provides wage-matching support for employers to place youth in rewarding work experiences in the great outdoors across Canada. Since 2018, we have helped to support over 2,000 youth in green jobs in the forest, conservation and parks sectors.
Someone is going across the country on a wooden bike right now. What's the story?
Zac Wagman, PLT Canada’s Green Jobs Manager, has embarked on a cross-country bike ride that we’ve affectionately dubbed the “Green Ride for Green Jobs”. The purpose of the ride is to bring youth working in Green Jobs experiences to life and celebrate the youth, employers, partners, and government departments who have contributed and are involved in the success of our Green Jobs initiative. The Green Ride is also elevating the types of careers that exist in the forest, conservation and parks sectors by showcasing youth and hearing from them how they got to that position. We hope that by raising awareness of these opportunities, more and more youth across Canada will want to get involved in outdoor work and will understand the pathways to those careers.
What exactly is a green job?
A green job is a job that takes you outdoors and into nature! It can include jobs in ecosystem and wildlife management, forest management, Indigenous forest-based jobs, recreation and interpretation, conservation and research, education, and jobs with provincial or territorial parks.
Why are green jobs important?
Green jobs represent one of the fastest growing and changing segments of the global economy. An estimated 9.8 million people worldwide held green jobs in 2017, and there will likely be 15-60 million new green jobs globally by 2030. The opportunities available through our Green Jobs initiative provide high-quality work experiences for youth – opportunities that support their education and their career development. Early exposure to these professional networks is also a chance to find a mentor and grow alongside a larger network of youth navigating similar pathways. It also enables employers to access a pool of highly motivated individuals looking for relevant work experience, and helps communities build the workforce they need for a green future.
What has the response been so far?
By the end of 2019, we will have supported over 2,000 youth in green jobs positions – so it is easy to say the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Most of our employers have said that this program has enabled them to hire more youth and have seen this as a huge opportunity to grow their future workforce. In addition, because PLT Canada is able to take on the administration of the program and focus on communicating the results, it means that employers can focus more on providing meaningful work experiences. None of this would be possible without the support of the SFI and the Canadian Parks Council (CPC) networks, which have stepped up to provide meaningful experiences for youth across Canada.
What are some of the top issues facing the forestry sector today and how can employers mitigate them through Project Learning Tree Canada?
The future of the forestry sector is going to require innovation and new ideas, and the best way to achieve that is to bring new perspectives into the workforce. Youth provide new knowledge and skills that help to bring this sector into the future. We also know the importance of ensuring that the sector is open to all youth – from diverse backgrounds, communities and experiences. We want all youth to see themselves as being a part of the sector – because the possibilities for them are endless.
What are employers’ incentives for joining this program?
Employers offering green job opportunities for youth can access up to 50% wage matching per youth employee, to a maximum of $5,712 for each individual hired through the program. This program supports experiences from 8 to 16 weeks long, up until December 2019. If employers are keen on adding to their workforce, we highly recommend that they connect with PLT Canada or visit our website to register for funding at www.pltcanada.org.
What has been the response from industry?
We are thrilled with the response from the SFI and CPC networks – including SFI Program Participants, conservation and community grantees, park agencies and our partners from across Canada. Our initial goal was to support over 1,600 youth by the end of 2019. We are on track to support over 2,000 youth because of the strength of these partners.
Why should youth pursue careers in forestry or conservation? What kinds of jobs can they expect to get?
People want to work in a field in which they feel they are contributing to the greater good. This is a huge benefit of forest and conservation work. There is a wide range of careers to choose from, and enough diversity of opportunities to help individuals find their preferred niche. Here are just a few of the jobs that youth have been hired for through our program: Summer Forestry Student, Silvicultural Technician, Invasive Species Coordinator, Park Ranger, Community Forest Intern, Outdoor Educator and Activities Coordinator. There are many, many more listed on our website. These are really some of the first experiences for youth as they embark on their career pathways.
How diverse is the forestry/conservation sector?
We’re thrilled about the diversity of placements through our program! In fact, in 2018, we achieved gender balance in our Green Jobs positions, in addition to placing over 90 Indigenous youth into Green Jobs. We have increased our efforts to reach even more Indigenous youth this year, supporting close to 200 Indigenous youth, with a focus on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #92: ensuring that Aboriginal peoples have equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities in the corporate sector. We believe all youth have an opportunity in the forest and hope to grow these opportunities in the future.
Any other thoughts you want to share about Project Learning Tree Canada?
PLT Canada believes in creating green career pathways for all youth. The Green Jobs initiative is just a start of what we want to achieve as we build our networks and supports for youth looking for a green job. We encourage all to follow #MyGreenJob as we embark on this exciting journey. We’re on Twitter (@PLT_Canada), Instagram (PLTCanada.Official) and Facebook (facebook.com/PLTCanada).