In an industry that is constantly evolving, keeping up with the latest knowledge and skills is essential to building a successful environmental career. But with so many training and professional development options available, what should you consider before enrolling? ECO Canada helps break down important considerations so that you can make the most of new learning opportunities.
What drives us?
The environment industry is very technical, and as a result, the need to keep up-to-date with the latest skills is often required by regulation. Many training decisions are also driven by personal interest. Regardless of the reasons for seeking professional development, it’s clear that the environmental community is made up of highly motivated professionals.
In a 2009 report written by ECO Canada titled Characteristics of Canadian Environmental Practitioners, 71% of environmental professionals reported that they had taken at least one job-related course that year. “Personal growth” topped the list as the main reason for taking training courses, followed by “employment-related needs.”
Shawn Martin,B.Sc., P. Biol., R.P. Bio., a project director with EBA, a Tetra Tech Company, says personal interest is what drives him to pursue new learning opportunities. “I am interested in the topics offered through external professional development,” Martin says. A board member for the Canadian Society of Environmental Biologists and a certified Environmental Professional (EP) specializing in Fisheries and Wildlife, Martin is a keen participant in many lectures, networking events, and social media discussions.
Always a major factor: cost
Cost influences many of our decisions and professional development is no exception. However, environmental employers are placing a greater importance on professional development for workers, recognizing the results of increased engagement and the reduced cost of recruitment. Many employers also offer in-house training or professional development funds.
Patrick Roelofsen, B. Admin., EP and Air Services Manager with SNC-Lavalin says the projects he is involved with guide his training. “Costs are always taken into account when contemplating the decision to undertake any professional development.SNC-Lavalin offers in-house training programs as well as support for education initiatives,” says Roelofsen.
As a member of industry associations or certifying bodies, you may already have access to great discounts or chances to brush up on your skills. For example, certified Environmental Professionals (EPs) receive discounts to ECO Canada workshops and networking events, providing them with access to ongoing learning opportunities.
When time is of the essence
Employees in the environmental sector face unique time constraints. For many professionals, the annual field season places restrictions on how and when they can access training opportunities. Self-paced options can provide a flexible alternative for working professionals, allowing them to complete a course as quickly as their schedule allows.
For Dorn Ray, Dip., C.E.T., Area Manager of the Due Diligence Group in Environment at GENIVAR, timing is always an important consideration. “Schedule is the most important factor when I take on new training,” says Ray. “Time is always something I seem to be short on. But if it is something I think I really need to attend, I will make the time.” A certified Environmental Professional (EP) specializing in Site Assessment & Reclamation, Ray advises others to communicate with their peers in the industry, saying there are always courses, conferences, and seminars available that will be sure to peak their interest.
Location, location, location
Location can also add additional constraints. As many environmental professionals are required to work out in the field, or travel throughout Canada or overseas, in-class programs may not provide the flexibility they need.
Online learning programs can provide the opportunity to gain additional skills or knowledge, whether you are out in the field or working from home. With greater flexibility, distance-learning programs make it possible to develop your environmental skills and expertise from wherever you happen to be. A great option is the bachelor and master programs through the Canadian Centre for Environmental Education.
Relevance and applicability
An important issue to consider when exploring potential learning opportunities is their relevance and applicability to your environmental career. In the 2009 report written by ECO Canada titled Characteristics of Canadian Environmental Practitioners, practitioners identified relatively large gaps between how much training they believed they needed and the actual amount of training received. The largest gaps identified were in the areas of environmental assessment and restoration, remediation and reclamation, as well as in strategic partnering, planning, monitoring, and reporting for sustainable development. Gaps were also identified in the areas of project management and business skills.
Roelofsen suggests taking a look at the future to determine current development activities. “Gauging where the industry is heading and positioning your professional development to stay current or ahead of environmental developments can ultimately impact the decision to take on certain training or professional development opportunities,” he says.
In the end, it all comes down to this. Whether you seek new learning opportunities because of personal interest or career need, online or in-class, at your own pace or not—a commitment to continuous learning and the desire to gain new skills and increase your own expertise are positive qualities for every environmental professional.