Youth employment programs to build a more equitable and inclusive future for conservation

Historically, and to this day, the conservation and environmental non-profit sector has lacked diversity. The lack of racial representation in the sector is not only an unjust systemic barrier for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, it makes environmental and conservation work less effective and less rich in consequence. Various efforts are being made in the sector to address this structural inequity. An important component is engaging youth facing barriers through wage subsidy programs in order to provide information, skills, work experience, peer support, and networks. These wage subsidy programs remove systemic barriers and provide opportunities for racialized and marginalized youth to gain the working skills necessary for a productive career in the nature sector and also serve to build public awareness of race-related barriers to nature in Canada and the need for anti-racism work in our sector.

The integrated outcomes that can result from funding youth employment programs include local community and economic benefits, ecosystem wellbeing, the development of youth career paths, mental and physical health benefits, and growing a sense of inclusion and belonging. Last year, funding from the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS) through Parks Canada supported hundreds of youth with employment in the nature sector, over 70% of whom were youth facing barriers.

The Green Budget Coalition recommends an increased investment in the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS) to work with the community on youth employment programs that ensure marginalized youth have the support they need to start careers in the nature and conservation sector, including the option for longer six to twelve month work terms.

Recommended Investment:

$125 million over five years to support the employment of over 5,000 young people starting their careers in the nature and environmental sector. [ESDC with PC and ECCC]