Green Jobs for All: Project to help newcomer youth build community and overcome barriers
A new program aims to provide newcomer and immigrant youth with the tools they need to advocate for a fair and equitable green future in Nova Scotia.
Noreen Mabiza, energy coordinator (sustainable communities) with the Ecology Action Centre, said the project – called Green Jobs for All – was launched to ensure newcomers are “not left behind” as the province is transitioning to a green economy.
“The idea of the program is to organize roundtables where newcomers and young immigrants can talk about the obstacles and opportunities they face in accessing green jobs,” said Mabiza.
The program is a partnership between the center and the Nova Scotia Community College.
The provincial government is working to deliver on its promise to phase out coal and bring Nova Scotia to 80% renewable energy by 2030. Premier Tim Houston’s solution is the Atlantic Loop , a $5 billion project that would improve electricity transmission capacity in the Atlantic region to facilitate the influx of hydroelectric power from Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Jobs exclude newcomers
While Justin Trudeau’s government has yet to approve federal support for the Loop, the transition away from coal is expected to change the look of the workforce in years to come.
The transition could leave out young newcomers and immigrants from the green sector, which is already inaccessible for some of them despite their interest, Mabiza said.
“(Green Jobs for All) really hopes to start trying to address some of these challenges, so that we are moving towards a just transition, the inequalities of the past are left behind.”
In an information session held on Thursday afternoon, young people who came to Canada from different parts of the world shared their stories about why they want to participate in the project.
One of the biggest hurdles for many, Mabiza said, is that funding for most student positions in the green sector specifies that the candidate must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.
“This prevents many immigrants and newcomers from having access to the student opportunities that their Canadian colleagues get,” she said.
“By the time they graduate, they don’t have the experience to get into… the green sector, which really affects them because many jobs require previous experience.
Unable to find employment after graduation, international students who wish to stay in Nova Scotia end up applying for jobs in other sectors simply to qualify for permanent residency.
“It sometimes takes you totally away from the green sector that you were so interested in before, because you just want to sort checkboxes.”
Coming to Halifax as an international student from Zimbabwe, Mabiza faced this obstacle herself.
After earning a degree in International Development Studies and Environment, Sustainability and Society from Dalhousie University, he didn’t immediately find employment in the green sector.
Learning to make connections in the field was also a challenge she faced. For some young newcomers, networking is a foreign concept that is complicated by the language barrier and the fear that exposing yourself will do more harm than good.
Mabiza hopes the Green Jobs for All project will help participants create a community of people interested in the environment and sustainability so that networking becomes easier for them. One of the planned roundtables will bring young people together with experts and people already working in green jobs so they can hear each other’s views and start finding solutions to existing barriers.
Mabiza had some advice for young newcomers interested in the green sector.
“Don’t be afraid to get out there and, you know, go to networking events and LinkedIn posts. … Building a community goes a long way. And I know sometimes it’s hard, sometimes you don’t. ‘t get any answers, but I think it’s definitely a good start.
Nebal Snan is a reporter with the Local Journalism Initiative, a federally funded position.