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BC green jobs need support: report

Retirement and a shortage of skilled workers in B.C.’s labour force could stall transition to a green economy in the near future, according to report published yesterday.

British Columbia’s Green Economy: Securing the Workforce of Tomorrow finds that while Canada’s pacific gateway is endowed with natural resources, clean energy and research and education strengths, many employers are already having trouble finding qualified engineers and technicians to fill specialized roles.

Developed by business-focused environmental non-profit group The Globe Foundation and partially funded by the B.C. government, the 45-page report details a challenging future for green jobs if B.C. doesn’t act to remedy the situation.

The report concluded that:

Action is needed to increase productivity levels within the labour force; to attract and retain existing workers and new graduates for the province’s green industry sectors; to train and up-skill workers from traditional industries; and to increase the participation rates amongst under- employed segments of BC’s population.

First Nations and rural communities were identified as untapped labour pools available to be trained for the sector.

It also recommended:

Incorporating the environment, sustainability, and the growing importance and attractiveness of green occupations into the formal K-12 curriculum is seen as essential to building future labour force capacity and creating change.

The report was based on an online survey of 104 “green” companies and employers in B.C., regional focus groups and interviews with the CEOs of green and clean energy companies.

It defines the green economy as:

a fast-growing economic development model that focuses on the creation of green jobs, the promotion of real, sustainable economic growth, and the prevention of environmental pollution, global warming, resource depletion, and ecological degradation.

The report defines green jobs according to the United Nations Environment Programme. They are:

those positions in agriculture, manufacturing, research and development, administration, and the service sector that contribute substantially to preserving or restoring environmental quality. This includes jobs that directly or indirectly help to protect ecosystems and biodiversity; reduce the use of energy, materials, and water consumption; “de-carbonize” the economy; and minimize or avoid waste and pollution.

Justin Langille reports for The Tyee.

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