“This is a dream job. I get to play with kids outdoors all day long and I get to teach them how important it is to care for the world we share,” says Gulled Abdo Saleban, a 23-year-old youth leader whose Green Job has him working with Ottawa kids living in community housing who drop by local parks to learn about themselves and the world around them. The program is part of the Ottawa Forest & Nature School, which was founded by the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada and is now managed by Andrew Fleck Childcare Services. Saleban was one of about two dozen youth who were on hand on August 12 to greet Zac Wagman, PLT Canada Green Jobs Manager, as his cross-country bike tour arrived in Ottawa to celebrate International Youth Day and make a stop in his hometown. The Green Ride for Green Jobs is inspiring young Canadians to pursue careers in forestry and conservation.
Wagman cycled along the Rideau River to Strathcona Park with Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Mona Fortier, Ottawa-Vanier MP, Mathieu Fleury, Ottawa City Councillor for Rideau-Vanier Ward, Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of PLT Canada, and about 15 other cyclists, including green jobs youth and partners.
“I was a little boy who loved bugs and fish and now I’m a grown man who loves working with bugs and fish,” says André Killeen who has a Green Job as a research assistant with Carleton University’s Cooke Lab of fish ecology and conservation physiology. Killeen addressed the crowd and explained how his green job is allowing him to combine his studies with learning how to enhance ecosystems in a way where the “theoretical meets the practical.”
PLT Canada’s Green Jobs program has already placed more than 2,000 young Canadians in the forest and conservation sectors since 2018, with a strong focus on Indigenous, newcomer, and rural youth. “We believe that every youth should have a chance to explore work experiences in the outdoors and we want to support them as they explore their pathway to their green career,” says Kathy Abusow, CEO and President of PLT Canada.
PLT Canada has built a productive working relationship with government to address barriers to employment, education and skills training for any youth who may face them.
“The passion of young people for the environment gives me so much hope. They have never known a world without climate change and are marching in the streets, demanding climate action. I also am inspired by the green choices so many are making in their careers, choosing jobs that help protect a healthy planet,” said Minister McKenna. “We’re supporting green jobs because we know they’re the jobs of the future. This program is not only supporting a healthier environment but also a stronger economy.”
Launched in 2018, with support from Employment and Social Development Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy, the Green Jobs program is administered by PLT Canada. Working closely with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Canadian Parks Council Networks, the organization is instilling a passion for the outdoors and providing youth with the knowledge, skills and experience that will help them pursue careers in the forest and conservation sectors.
“Project Learning Tree Canada is helping thousands of youth in our community find meaningful employment, gain the skills, and work experience needed to thrive in the workplaces of tomorrow. I am proud of the Government of Canada’s support of this incredible initiative, giving youth the opportunity to pursue their goal of a cleaner, greener Canada for generations to come,” said Fortier.
Ottawa was Wagman’s final stop in Ontario before he set off for Quebec on August 13. He expects to wrap up his epic ride in mid-September in St. John’s, just in time for National Forest Week.