We’ve recently released two reports looking into labour demand and environmental labour supply for the sector over the next decade. Our research suggests that over the course of the next decade until 2029, there may be as many as 233,500 net job openings in the environmental sector as a result of both job creation and retirement.
With this many job openings, filling them may prove difficult. Our most recent report, ‘Environmental Labour Market Challenges and Opportunities in the Decade Ahead’, examines the ways in which we could fill these jobs. It shows that academia will be vital in ensuring Canada is best placed to meet its environmental goals.
Key insights from our research for academia
Academia is crucial in helping to train the next generation of environmental workers. For Canada to meet its environmental goals, we need to increase the number of workers across the sector. Post-secondary institutions will be vital to make sure the required skills, both core and technical, are developed.
The following research insights demonstrate the importance of post-secondary education in the following decade.
Opportunities for environmental work are growing across Canada
Opportunities in the environmental sector are growing in Canada. Consumers, businesses, and governments are increasingly requiring that environmental protection and conservation activities be incorporated into all aspects of society and the economy. This means that more environmental workers are needed to fulfill these demands.
Though overall demand for environmental workers dropped temporarily during COVID-19, it is expected to rebound to pre-pandemic levels quicker than other sectors.
Environmental jobs aren’t limited to just one or two areas of Canada. There are opportunities across the country and green jobs are present in every region. While most environmental workers are based in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia, the territories have the highest EnviroShare (proportion of jobs that are environmental).
This fast-growing sector needs qualified people to work in it.
Post-secondary education is essential for reaching Canada’s environmental goals
Our research shows that most environmental workers have post-secondary education (around 76%) and that post-secondary education is a requirement for most environmental jobs across Canada.
It’s anticipated that 86% of net environmental job openings to 2029 are in occupations requiring post-secondary credentials showing there is a way to go to make sure that more people receive the necessary education to support the Canadian environmental workforce. In order to achieve this, academia will be vital.
Of the 233,500 projected environmental job openings, 26% will require a university education. Over a third of the total projected job openings will require workers to have completed a post-secondary credential.
Environmental jobs encompass a wide range of industries and skills
The environmental workforce across Canada spans practically every occupation and industry. These workers drive and support the goals of natural resource management, environmental protection, and sustainability.
This means jobs in the environmental sector are not limited to those requiring environmental-specific competencies. They encompass candidates with experience and education in life sciences, policy, engineering, communications, trades, public administration and more.
For academia, this means it is not only the traditional environmental courses that can help develop the required skills and competencies for the environmental workforce. There is an opportunity for a wider variety of courses to lead to environmental employment.
Our National Occupation Standards (NOS) data shows the key environmental competencies that employers are looking for and that should be incorporated into your courses.
How academia can help meet environmental job demands
Academia has the power to help transform the future and meet the forecast increase in environmental jobs across Canada.
Together we can ensure that Canada’s environmental workforce is ready to meet its goals. These next steps will help ensure we’re maximizing the potential of post-secondary education to meet these demands.
Stay current on competency requirements
One of the challenges facing the environmental labour market is ensuring that the workforce has the required competencies as well as technical knowledge. Our NOS data describe the acceptable skills and knowledge required of environmental professionals across core knowledge, transferable competencies, and technical skills.
Making sure your courses help develop these competencies is extremely valuable. Doing so helps prepare students for the workplace and aids employers in finding suitable candidates.
It’s vital that environmental courses prepare students for their area of specialization and contribute to their development as responsible environmental professionals. Course accreditation helps your institution stand out to future students and provides formal validation for your program’s commitment to high-quality education.
Gaining accreditation for your programs helps elevate your institution and benefits you, your students and the environmental sector as a whole. As part of the accreditation process, we ensure that your environmental programs are providing students with the right competencies for the jobs in demand.
Incorporate environmental courses into a broader range of curricula
As our research shows, environmental competencies are required for both core environmental works and environmental goods and services sector workers. To ensure students are ready to enter the workforce and meet the growing environmental labour demand, increasing exposure to environmental competencies through electives across more programs is crucial.
Doing so can lead to more graduates being interested in pursuing green careers; helping to meet labour demands.
Environmental workforce demand is growing and while this presents many opportunities, there are also challenges in making we can meet these demands. The role of academia in helping to train the new environmental workforce, and meet these demands, is crucial.
Ensuring courses help develop key environmental competencies, increasing exposure to these competencies across offered courses and course accreditation can help meet these demands and help Canada reach its environmental goals.