Youth internships enhance your triple bottom line

By 2023, the number of people on the planet is expected to reach eight billion. Of those, there will be about one billion youth, a quarter of which may not have a job.

That’s about 250 million unemployed young people. In Canada, youth unemployment is twice the national average and even higher among First Nation, Métis and Inuit.

In Nova Scotia, the news is less bleak. Youth unemployment in June 2019 fell just below 10 per cent, the lowest since Statistics Canada began monitoring this information in 1976. The national average across all age groups is around six per cent.

Still, that’s a lot of unemployed youth in our province —about 20,000 people, who are disproportionately from underserved communities.

Youth are generally defined as people between 15 and 30 years old. They are employable, and they may in fact improve your social, financial and, especially, your environmental impact — commonly referred to as your triple bottom line. Youth, perhaps more than any demographic, see their futures through these multiple, interconnected lenses.

This emerging group are well positioned to help with today’s great strategic opportunities and challenges, from reshaping our economies to fighting climate change. They are certainly engaged, as evidenced by Greta Thunberg, Autumn Peltier and the global youth movement for climate action; the now ubiquitous Friday school strikes for climate action has forced people to take notice. Youth are especially invested in environmental issues and will be the catalyst needed to truly build a sustainable society.

Clean Energy Canada, a think-tank in British Columbia, predicts some 600,000 green jobs across the country by 2030, and in Nova Scotia, Gardner Pinfold and Ecology Action Centre predict 15,000 new green jobs by 2030.

The clean economy is not just about tree planting; it includes all markets that support a sustainable planet, including our ocean resources. From energy and information management to building and transportation design to carbon financing to research and academia. It includes all supply chains and support mechanisms; administration, labour, leadership. Imagining a new economy may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.

There is an incredible convergence happening between new jobs and demographics at the local, regional and global scale – a convergence facilitated, even driven, by interest from youth in the low carbon transition economy. Youth will be the workforce in the clean economy, and we must support them if they are to actively, and successfully, participate.

At the Clean Foundation we prioritize youth engagement and are excited about building capacity for the next generation. Our clean leadership summer internship program matches youth with employers. We cover 60 per cent of the hard costs and much of the administrative and other soft costs. The clean leadership program injects young people with enthusiasm for new ways of doing business, early enough to profoundly influence their career path.

Internships should not be a burden on employers, but the reality is many are. The Clean Foundation is committed to ensuring that participation is easy every step of the way, especially for vulnerable employers like small and medium-sized enterprises, those in rural locations and those developing social enterprises. We help you design meaningful roles that contribute to your core business, offering you a low-risk way to assess employee fit which is critical to long-term retention.

In 2019, over 70 clean leaders – including over 20 per cent from Mi’kmaq communities – joined the workforce in Nova Scotia. They came from diverse backgrounds, with diverse skillsets.

Employers were as diverse as interns, and not what you might expect. Sea Tree Organic Charcoal, a small startup company from Cape Breton, hired a Clean Foundation intern to help identify how natural byproducts, such as old crab shells, could be used to lessen the environmental footprint of concrete; The Tare Shop, a forward-thinking coffee shop in Halifax, positioned their Clean Foundation intern at public outreach events to raise awareness for single-use plastics; and the Mi’kmaq Environmental Learning Centre challenged interns to organize and facilitate the Nikani Awtiken summer camp. which encourages Mi’kmaq youth to pursue careers in natural resource management, while incorporating traditional Mi’kmaq knowledge on environmental sustainability.

Clean invests in training and mentoring for each clean leader, matching them with the best job for their strengths. We provide a three-day professional development conference, opportunities for networking and growing their professional and personal contacts, and we also stay connected with them and their host employers throughout the nine- or 15-week placements. In our experience, the best internships work well for both student and employer.

We can all be part of the clean economy. As it takes hold and new jobs emerge and diversify, we must seriously consider who will be doing these jobs and the legacies we leave behind. To help get you there, please consider a hire from our 2020 Clean Leadership summer cohort– applications are open until Jan. 17!

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