What does the future hold for environmental employment? This question is at the heart of basic career planning for many students and new professionals.
Sure, green jobs may present strong employment prospects now, but will this trend last long enough to make environmental work a sensible career choice?
As part of a growing body of evidence for the long-term viability of green growth and associated jobs, a new study on the West Coast clean economy
by GLOBE Advisors and the Centre for Climate Strategies paints a compelling picture of future green employment.
Like most employment projections, it helps to have a strong awareness of how green jobs have changed so far.
So what did green employment look like then, what does it look like now, and where is it headed?
Green Jobs Then:
In 2007, ECO Canada’s study on green employment
estimated that there were about 530,414 environmental employees in Canada. According to the same report, about 10.1% of Canadian businesses, or 105,221 establishments, employed at least one environmental worker.
Green Jobs Now:
Much has changed for green employment.
Today, a modest estimate of total Canadian employees who perform environmental work
sits around 682,000 individuals. This number reflects a minimum percentage of time (50%) spent on the job conducting tasks associated with environmental protection, resource management and/or sustainability.
When any amount of time performing environmental activities is taken into account, over 2,000,000 Canadian employees conduct environment-related work.
For most members of this impressive environmental workforce, their work is highly interdisciplinary, with 91% of these employees drawing on more than one skill category. The most common skill areas mentioned by these employees involved:
1) Environmental health and safety (40% of environmental employees)
2) Waste management (28%)
3) Site assessment, remediation, and reclamation (20%)
Green Jobs into the Future:
The report found that with progressive policy initiatives, clean jobs in this region could essentially double from 508,000 full-time equivalent positions today to 1.03 million jobs by 2020.
This remarkable expansion is already in progress, and several major sectors are leading the way. Based on the findings from the West Coast study, substantial job creation can be expected for green industries in:
• Environmental protection and resource management
• Energy efficiency and green building
• Clean transportation
• Clean energy supply
• Knowledge and support
While policy is a major piece of the environmental job creation puzzle, it is important to note that many of the sectors listed above also depend on the decisions made by individual businesses. In the specific case of energy efficiency, this sector is growing at a breakneck pace because of the significant business benefits (e.g. cost savings, reduced use of resources) associated with this area.
What are your thoughts on the future of green jobs? Are there any additional sectors that you believe will experience major growth and development in the coming years?