An Introduction To Green Jobs And The Green Economy For Students And Grads

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Some say you only have two options in life: go big or go home. But when it comes to the environment, the only option may be to go green so we can have a home for years to come.

Whether you believe in climate change or not, the fact is that we have treated Mother Earth worse than that ratty old teddy bear from your childhood.

We’ve neglected her, put her through the ringer, and destroyed her with chemicals and toxins to the point that she’s in need of a solid repair job.

While climate change may be impacting the entire globe, each country is reacting to environmental shifts differently.

What exactly is a “green job”?

Green jobs in Canada are still in their awkward teenage years – they’re still trying to figure out exactly who and what they are.

According to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), countries such as Germany, Finland, Korea, Portugal and, most recently, the United States have officially defined what is considered a “green job” in their nations and thereby recognized their growing environmental sectors.

Canada, on the other hand, still has some growing up to do. What constitutes a “green job” in our home and native land is currently undefined, so the term tends to encompass the various industries and occupations that deal with the environment.

For lack of official national definitions, ECO Canada recently defined a number of green career terms in their Defining the Green Economy: Labour Market Research Study.

Here are some of the key terms from that study that every student and recent grad who is planning to start a green career should know:

Green Economy

All activity operating with the primary intention of reducing conventional levels of resource consumption, harmful emissions, and minimizing all forms of environmental impact. The green economy includes the inputs, activities, outputs and outcomes as they relate to the production of green products and services.

Green organization

An organization (in any industry) that produces goods or services designed to minimize environmental impact.

Green job

A job that works directly with information, technologies, or materials that minimize environmental impact, and also requires specialized skills, knowledge, training, or experience related to these areas.

Green skills

The knowledge, training or experience as they relate to technologies or materials that minimize environmental impact.

Specialized green skills:

  • Wind and solar energy
  • Battery technology and power electronics
  • Sustainability management and energy efficiency
  • Environmental finance and emissions trading

Other green skills or knowledge areas:

  • Softer skills related to communications
  • The ability to adapt to technological change
  • Knowledge of sustainable development
  • Interdisciplinary thinking that develops relationships across industries and organizations to support system integration

While the green industry may still be trying to figure out its identity, it is growing up quickly. According to the 2006 census, the current green workforce is made up of approximately 640,000 Canadians and equals 4% of our country’s total labour force.

What does the growing green economy mean for students and new grads?

ECO Canada says that the current prospects for green jobs are strong. So what does that mean for students and new grads hoping to go green?

More jobs

Research by The West Coast Clean Economy found that “clean jobs” on North America’s west coast alone, including British Columbia, could double from an estimated 508,000 full-time positions to more than one million jobs by 2020.

According to ECO Canada, the top areas of opportunity in Canada within the emerging green economy include:

  • Renewable energy and energy efficiency
  • Buildings, retro-fitting and construction
  • Transportation and alternative transportation
  • Waste recycling and waste management

Shifting careers to become more “green”

Once you start your career, you may also find that your job simply becomes “greener” over time. Your employer may provide additional training or education to ensure you are equipped to help the organization become more environmentally friendly or sustainable, or to enter new “green” marketplaces.

Global career and education opportunities

Green jobs are being created all over the world, particularly in Portugal, Spain, and Korea. Additionally, going overseas can open up more learning opportunities for you to build your career in the green industry. Canada currently has education and training programs, but countries like Belgium and Hungary offer job subsidies and direct job creation programs in addition to educational programs.

Attend the Green Jobs Forum on Sept. 17, 2012 in TorontoIs your dream job a green job? Attend the Green Jobs Forum on Sept. 17, 2012 in Toronto – admission is free! Register now.

 

To learn more about getting a green job and hatching a career in the green economy, visit TalentEgg’s Green Jobs Career Guide.

 

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About the author

Ishani Nath is a proud McMaster alum, aspiring writer and current journalism grad student at Ryerson University. When she's not hammering out articles, she can usually be found on a patio or nestled on a couch trying to keep up with those crazy Kardashians. She hopes to one day have a job that makes her excited to get up each morning, or at least one that gives her free food. Intrigued? Enthralled? Learn more by following her on @ishaninath.