Riding a wooden bike across Canada to inspire Canadian youth to work in sustainable outdoor jobs has earned Zac Wagman, Green Jobs Manager for Project Learning Tree Canada, Top 10 Under 40 honours from Canadian Forest Industries magazine.
The award prioritizes a strong work ethic, leadership by example, and efforts to grow the quality of Canada’s forest sector. Zac delivered on all fronts.
Zac recently accomplished the amazing feat of biking over 9,215 km across Canada to celebrate youth working in green jobs. His Green Ride for Green Jobs began in Victoria, B.C., on May 13 and took him through over 100 communities across six time zones where he met with more than 230 Green Jobs youth and over 50 employers. He finished in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on September 23, in time to celebrate National Forest Week.
“As a university student, I didn’t appreciate how many great careers there are in forestry, parks, and other green sectors. I started thinking about how we could get more youth interested in and excited about these opportunities,” Zac recalls. “After floating the idea and getting an encouraging response, I put a formal proposal together.”
Part of what sealed the deal was Zac’s interest in finding a wooden bike. He wanted to make the trip stand out in a truly sustainable way and demonstrate the kind of innovation that takes place in the forest sector. The wooden bicycle he ultimately selected and rode across the country was manufactured by Picolo Velo in Montreal. The company has recently become SFI-certified, ensuring that the wood used in the manufacturing process comes from responsibly managed forests.
“Riding wooden bikes definitely got us noticed wherever we went,” says Zac, who was accompanied on the ride by his brother, Nick. Zac used the interest he generated to help bring to life the stories of many youth in green jobs. The Green Ride generated over 32,000 interactions in social media, 19 TV and radio appearances, and 26 newspaper articles nationally and locally.
The green jobs Zac helped promote included forest technicians, biologists, conservation technicians, Indigenous knowledge coordinators, park interpreters, environmental education assistants, fisheries biologists, forestry planners, hydrologists, and stewardship assistants.
“The ride was definitely an experience of a lifetime, but so was meeting all those amazing youth who were making a difference for a sustainable future every day on the job,” Zac says.
The youth Zac met and profiled on his ride were just some of the 2,000 students that PLT Canada has helped to place in green jobs since 2018 with support from over 200 employers across Canada and funding from the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy.
Thanks to continued funding from the Government of Canada, PLT Canada will be developing additional value-added career supports, including mentorship, networking and career resources to inspire more youth to enter green careers, as well as employer education to encourage and support employers to hire more youth.
The Green Ride for Green Jobs was made possible by PLT Canada’s strong networks across the Canadian Parks Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), and thanks to the following sponsors: West Fraser, Millar Western, Resolute Forest Products, Forest Products Association of Canada, Domtar, Mosaic Forest Management, Canfor, EACOM Timber Corp., Western Canada SFI Implementation Committee, Central Canada SFI Implementation Committee, Acadian Timber, and Fleming College.