Employment: The Nature Of The Green Job Market
By Sandra Fletcher
Over a century ago a poet, Walt Whitman, said, "After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics…and so on …what remains? Nature remains." He was right about pastimes and interests and as we are finding out, he was right about careers as well.
Careers in the "Green Sector" as it is called, have, according to Statistics Canada, increased at twice the rate as jobs in Canada on the whole. Data from Statistics Canada and the Conference Board of Canada reveal that by 2011, all net growth in the Canadian workforce will come from immigration. Put two and two together and you have tremendous opportunity!
What Kind Of Jobs Are Green?
The green sector has 3 basic types of jobs:
- Environmental Protection – such as regulation of air, land, water and environmental quality and standards.
- Conservation and Preservation of Natural Resources – this includes growing things on, taking things from, raising things on or caring for the land.
- Environmental Sustainability – includes a wide range of hands off (for the most part) planning, management and maintenance roles.
Who Needs Help?
John, an engineer from China (whose original Chinese name is Fan Yu Zeng), arrived in Toronto as a skilled worker with high level project management experience in mining. Although he had begun the process as soon as he immigrated, his credentials would take years to evaluate and in the meantime he needed help looking for work to gain Canadian experience in his field.
The job finding club that John attended pointed him to different locations across the country in which there were mines where he may be able to use his experience in a technical capacity until his academic requirements could aid his job search. Unfortunately, it was a long process but John and his family have now relocated to north of Calgary and he has begun this process as an assistant research coordinator – looking forward now to his future.
But John was much luckier than most. According to ECO only 23 percent of employers in the green sector have hired recent immigrant employees. This does not follow the trends in other sectors.
How Can We Fix It?
Early in 2010 the Canadian government, as part of its Economic Action Plan, invested $50 million in finding a solution to the issue of foreign credential recognition. In a press release, Minister of State Diane Ablonczy said, "Through Canada’s Economic Action Plan, our government is taking action to improve foreign credential recognition so that newcomers can maximize their talents. We are proud to support ECO Canada's Environmental Sector Immigration Strategy, because attracting the best international talent is vital to Canada’s long-term economic success."
In this new initiative, internationally educated professionals who submit an application to the government to be licensed or registered to work in some fields within the environmental sector will have their accreditation reviewed within one year – essentially "fast-tracked". The framework is part of Canada's plans to have "the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world."
There are a number of bridging projects offered through different organizations. These programs offer assistance for newcomers to transition from what they did prior to their immigration to and their new careers in Canada.
Rodrigo Goller is the Project Coordinator of the Green Opportunities Project, a not-for-profit project funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to create awareness of the issues newcomers can face while seeking employment in environmental initiatives or the green sector. Over the past few months this group has conducted focus groups throughout the greater Toronto area focusing on consultations with newcomers seeking green opportunities.
Goller says that some of the biggest barriers faced, as identified by job seekers, are immigrants lack of Canadian experience and their inability to translate their past qualifications and experience to their current opportunities. As a result, many newcomers are "under-employed". It can take years to return to their previous roles and social/economic status.
Their findings also show that newcomers feel discriminated against as employees in this particular sector. Overt racism toward visible minorities was identified by newcomer employees as well as by employers.
Throughout their focus groups, employers identified that one of the issues with newcomer employees was their cultural competency – the hesitancy or ability to adapt their soft skills to the traditional Canadian workplace. This results in barriers within the company and with their employees' satisfaction.
From these findings, the Green Opportunities Project will establish a "Best Practices Manual" to help people in the environmental field adapt to immigration-related change to local communities, constituents, consumers, clients and labour pools, thereby improving newcomers' access to environmental initiatives and green sector employment opportunities. This forward thinking approach can help newcomers to easily build a path to successful employment within the green sector.
A lot of things go into selecting what career path we follow. For those whose values and aptitudes lead them to the environment around them, the possibilities, growth and challenges are limitless!