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ECO Canada aims to build the world’s leading environmental workforce. To achieve this, the organization is providing those interested in environmental careers with the necessary skills, education and training that employers demand. The organization also serves as an online base, providing a wide range of job postings, training and certification to make any environmental career attainable. After working at ECO Canada for 17 years, President and CEO Michael Kerford knows how to generate results when an environmentalist’s dream job hangs in the balance.
A\J: What skills should people interested in environmental careers focus on developing?
Michael Kerford: A consistent element of employer feedback is the need to complement technical competencies with business and soft skills. Project management, written communications, stakeholder engagement and teamwork are among the most common business or soft competencies requested by employers.
When does it make sense to get a master’s or PhD instead of entering the workforce straight from an undergraduate degree?
For many environmental jobs, a Bachelor’s degree is sufficient for starting out. When we looked at the Canadian environmental workforce as a whole in 2013, we found that only 9.2 percent of these workers (about 165,000 employees) had a postgraduate degree.
However, it does make sense to pursue a master’s or PhD program if you are planning to advance to a professional or managerial career path, especially in fields like sustainability, where there’s a need for advanced knowledge of integrated environmental, social and economic issues.
The majority of environmental jobs seem to be lab- or field-based; what else is out there for environmental grads?
The environmental sector is dynamic and constantly changing; there are new roles that haven’t existed before and jobs that environmental professionals have created for themselves when they recognized an opportunity to provide unique value to businesses.
Based on our research, there is significant demand for environmental jobs related to business or public administration, such as Environmental Managers, Operations Managers, Environmental Compliance Coordinators, and Sustainability Policy Analysts. In fact, in our 2013 Profile of Canadian Environmental Employment, we found that over 30 percent of the environmental workforce uses skills related to communications and public awareness.
Often, these opportunities are about combining specialized expertise on the science of environmental protection and sustainability with business skills, such as program development, client relations, communications and project management.
What are some of the most surprising environmental jobs you’ve come across?
The range of available environmental jobs is remarkable. Our current online inventory of environmental career profiles includes over 129 unique job titles, and this is just scratching the surface. Many of these roles did not exist just a few decades ago, such as Chief Sustainability Officers or Climate Change Specialists. One of the most unusual environmental jobs is a sustainable interior designer. They specialize in reducing the environmental impact of a space, such as efficient use of a small space, reducing energy consumption, and choosing materials that have a lower environmental impact.
Head to eco.ca for training opportunities to boost your environmental career and certifications that can help you land your dream green job.
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