Contrary to what one might expect after graduation, the career path is rarely a clear and straight one. On the contrary, they are often winding paths, strewn with obstacles and pitfalls. Faced with these obstacles, many will make detours, even backtracking, to reorient themselves completely. Climate change represents one of the most important pitfalls for workers in the coming decades. This issue will force many to completely change course, while others will have to integrate new skills into their careers. As climate experts, our goal is to accompany workers in this transition in order to transform this obstacle into an opportunity.
Over the last few centuries, humanity has experienced several economic revolutions that have caused significant changes in the labor market. These changes are manifested by the massive loss of certain types of jobs and the creation of several others, sometimes more specialized. During the Industrial Revolution, for example, many craftsmen, not being able to compete with new technologies, lost their livelihood.
With the increased consumer awareness of climate issues in recent years, we can expect major changes in consumer habits. This also has repercussions on the types of jobs in demand. Several jobs, such as those specialized in oil and coal extraction, will be much less in demand if the Paris Accord objective is met. Many workers will also want to change industries and/or occupations to better align their work with their values. This is notably the case of our colleague Maria, who works with the SAF+ consortium, and who previously worked in the oil and gas industry for 10 years.
At the same time, the transition will lead to the creation of several new jobs related to clean technologies and improved energy consumption. A study by Clean Energy Canada illustrates this parallel very well in the Canadian context: by 2030, we can expect to lose up to 50,000 jobs in the fossil fuel sector but gain 160,000 jobs in the clean energy sector. The growth of clean energy can offset job losses in fossil fuels and even increase the number of jobs. ECO Canada also noted in a report that the number of environment-related online job postings increased by 17% between 2016 and 2018, while the increase was only 7% for the rest of the job market.
The major challenge in assisting these workers is therefore to facilitate the transition to the cleaner economy of tomorrow. This reorientation will, in some cases, require specialized and very important training, sometimes requiring post-secondary education that can extend over several years.
The majority of professional fields are expected to remain intact for several decades. Civil engineers will continue to design and build infrastructure, elected officials will continue to represent the interests of their constituents, and business managers will continue to manage the risks of their companies in order to optimize their profits.
That being said, these professions can be expected to change, sometimes dramatically. Civil engineers will have to deal with increasingly frequent extreme weather events that may affect the integrity of their infrastructure they build. Representatives will have to make land-use planning decisions in the context of an ever-changing climate. Business managers will have to consider the risks imposed by climate change, including risks related to new legislation aimed at reducing GHG emissions. What’s more, climate change will have a significant impact on the health of Quebec workers. Thus, several national unions, including the CSN and the FTQ, have formed the collective “La Planète s’invite au travail” in order to raise awareness on the importance of these impacts and to demand a fair economic transition for all.
Experts in these fields will have to be trained to take climate issues into account in their daily lives. They will have to follow training courses integrating hard skills and soft skills. The hard skills should, among other things, enable professionals to :
- identify the physical and economic risks of climate change for their organization, their employees or the population;
- identify the economic risks of climate change policies;
- identify the measures to be put in place to deal with these risks;
- seize business opportunities related to the low-carbon transition.
ECO Canada has identified the soft skills most sought after by environmental employers. This short list summarizes the soft skills to be developed in climate change training:
- Ability to collaborate;
- Project Management;
- Report writing;
Even if the majority of workers can be reassured about the future of their field of activity, many will have to take training to be prepared for the transformations that await them. Several professional organizations can guide their members on training applicable to their sectors, and funding programs for training, such as those offered by the MEI (Ministry of Economy and Innovation), are beginning to gain in importance.
Accompanying Workers on This New Road
Our experience as a climate change consultant gives us the chance to know the hard skills and to apply the soft skills related to this issue on a daily basis. Thus, we are often called upon to provide training to pass on some of these skills to groups of employees and elected officials to prepare them for the new challenges they face. For example, we have been working for several years with the Quebec CPA Order to provide training on GHG accounting, carbon market regulations, and sustainable finance to members of the organization. These subjects are of growing importance to them on a daily basis, in the multiple sectors of activity where accountants are solicited.
For nearly a year now, CCG has also been using new training formats. One of these new formats is a gamified workshop called Jeu CLIMAT, developed in partnership with Jeux WASA, to help engage participants during the training and facilitate the application of soft skills. Using a board and blocks, participants build a neighborhood and deal with extreme weather events while reducing the carbon footprint of their neighborhood. The workshop is strategically sequenced to replicate the reality of businesses and municipalities. In two hours, participants not only have the opportunity to apply the technical skills mentioned above, but also to practice functional skills such as communication, project management, and collaboration in a multidisciplinary team. In addition, this medium allows for a much greater involvement of the participants, and they retain the concepts better.
Providing climate change training is a great privilege. We sometimes learn as much from the participants as we can teach them; the climate change issues specific for a particular region, the approach of different professionals to the same problem, and the obstacles encountered when implementing certain solutions by a company. The commitment of participants during discussions and workshops is the culmination of all training. It is at this point that the notions discussed during the training are consolidated, that some participants decide – sometimes unconsciously – on the actions they will take upon their return to work, and that some participants start collaborating together to develop climate solutions. What is most rewarding, in the long term, is knowing that one has been able to contribute to the career development of participants on environmental issues. These detours are not easy, and can sometimes be frustrating, but they are necessary to implement the large-scale low-carbon transition that is taking place.
There is no doubt: the transition towards a low-carbon economy, which must be put in place to respond to the climate emergency, will have a very significant social impact. This impact will have repercussions on workers, both in Canada and internationally, some of whom will have to retrain if they want to find a new path in which to flourish. The impact will also be felt on the rest of the workers, who will have to make several detours in order to integrate a whole range of new skills to face new challenges in their professional fields. CCG is well aware of the skills required to meet the challenges of climate change. We can help you implement the required training programs in your organization and obtain the necessary funding. Contact us to learn more about the training offered by CCG.