EYC Success Stories: AWES


We reached out to our 2016-2017 EYC program participants to ask about their experiences. Hear how EYC benefits both employers and interns in our interview with AWES Jeff Renton and Luke Wonneck.

Jeff Renton, Host, AWES Agroforestry & Woodlot Extension Society

How did you hear about the EYC program?

From a colleague in a partnering organization during a conversation about funding opportunities.

Why did your organization decide to host EYC interns?

Our organization needed to increase our capacity for a few of our on-going projects, and a lot of the work was able be done by entry-level staff.

What was the process like for your company to become a Host?

The process was incredibly straight forward and had a quick turn around time. A lot of the information required in the application we already had developed to justify increasing our capacity to our Board.

Has hosting interns benefitted your organization? If, so, please describe how.

Because of the incredible work ethic and ambitious nature of our intern, we’ve not only caught up on our existing work products, but have been able to take on several new projects.

Do you have any experiences with interns that stand out or are particularly memorable?

The first presentation the intern gave on behalf of our organization, which was on a technical subject that was being relayed to landowners. Prior to this presentation, we had given the intern support in providing a presentation and time to develop content. I was blown out of the water by his performance; the presentation was well delivered and I found myself learning a lot of new information. Furthermore, the audience was full of questions and enthusiasm.

Have you seen professional growth in either your intern(s) or your company due to EYC? If so, how?

With a lot of new graduates, I find them full of information but often lacking a bit of experience in how to apply it. During the internship, we have provided training and hands-on opportunities for the intern to manage and supervise operational components of various projects. He has gained a much greater understanding into the many factors that can improve or reduce the success of a project and using this understanding during his daily work.

How successful was the EYC program for your company? What would you describe as the most successful aspect of hosting an intern?

The opportunity to host an intern has been of considerable value to AWES. Not only has it provided a substantial increase in capacity, but allowed us to branch off into new projects areas by leveraging the experience and knowledge base of our intern.

What interesting projects are you currently working on as an organization and how is your intern involved?

For the past few years AWES has been working on a comprehensive manual on how to establish a riparian buffer in riparian areas in Alberta. The intern was one of the primary staff involved in researching and developing the content for the manual. It was recently completed and available on our website.

Do you feel that the EYC program and your organization’s involvement in it is contributing to the growth of the environmental sector/green jobs in Canada?

The EYC program can benefit an organization’s ability to hire an intern through two different means; 1) assisting an organization to afford hiring a new staff member; or 2) increase the potential salary for an intern, removing the potential financial barrier for new graduates taking a job in the environmental sector.

Additionally, we have decided to provide full-time employment to our intern after the completion of this program.

If you could give one piece of advice or information to other organizations who are not participating in the EYC what would it be?

Being a recent graduate does not imply that one is without knowledge and talent. Give this program a try, and either through advertising or use of a professional network you’ll likely find a pool of enthusiastic and knowledgeable individuals that can help you!

In your own words, please share anything else you would like ECO and others to know about your experience with the EYC program:

The key to this program is that in addition to providing a crucial learning opportunity to a recent graduate, your organization is likely to benefit. We’ve all found ourselves in a slump where we stick with the same approach or process, but by having a new person they may bring a new approach that can reinvigorate your company.

Luke Wonneck, Intern, AWES Agroforestry & Woodlot
Extension Society

How did you hear about the EYC program?

I heard about the EYC program through the Eco Canada website, which I was using during my job search.

What’s your academic background and what attracted you to environmental work?

I have an MSc in Environmental Policy from the University of Oxford, and a BSc in Environmental Science from the University of Calgary. I am attracted to environmental work because I am interested in understanding the connections between a range of topics that are normally viewed as distinct, such as ecology, climate, geography, soil science, politics, economics, culture, everyday practices (e.g. eating, washing, commuting, shopping, etc.), and others.

What was the EYC process like to match you with a host company?

The EYC process was efficient and easy to follow.

Has EYC opened any doors for you career wise?

I plan on staying on as an employee with the organization that I have interned with during this past year, so yes, the EYC has definitely opened doors for me.

Do you have any experiences from your internship that stand out or are particularly memorable?

During my internship I had a number of opportunities to deliver presentations and workshops to farmers, acreage owners and other landowners. Probably one of the most memorable of these for me was in Grande Prairie County, AB, where I delivered a 3 hour workshop on planting shelterbelts and eco-buffers. The attendees of that workshop were what made it memorable – they had brought along maps of their own properties, and together we worked through and discussed potential planting designs and challenges. I left feeling like I learned a lot and had been able to provide useful advice and insight.

Is this the type or role you had envisioned for yourself when you were going to school, if yes or no explain why?

I had envisioned myself more in an environmental policy role than the one I am currently in, which involves a lot of technical agroforestry work. Over my internship, I’ve come to appreciate the practicality and utility of my work, and also the fact that I’ve still managed to integrate some of my thinking around social change and governance. In other words, I’ve managed to shape my role slightly to suit my expertise and interests. I no longer feel the need to pursue a more conventional environmental policy career path.

If you could give one piece of advice to graduates who are not part of the EYC program what would it be?

Be patient with the job search, and try to make personal connections as much as possible. I was applying for jobs online for 6 months with no luck, and then all of a sudden got 3 interviews through personal connections.

From your perspective, where do you see the environmental sector going? Where do you see your career fitting in?

I would like to see the environmental sector becoming less of a “sector”, as this implies that it is distinct from other “sectors” such as natural resources, trade, education, health care, and others. Rather, I would like to see environmental thought, understanding, and skills becoming integrated within activities across society in ways that increase benefits for all affected parties. As an Agroforestry Technician, I see myself as helping farmers and other land managers to realize some of these benefits.

In your own words, let us know anything else you would like to share about your EYC experience: e.g. successes, failures, learning opportunities, mentorship, professional development, skills gained.

As Agroforestry Technician, I have been asked to assist in designing tree planting projects on farmland. So far, if I could go back in time I would change at least one thing about the design of every single planting I’ve been involved with thus far. This has been both frustrating and humbling, and as well a massive learning opportunity – shown by the fact that at least I haven’t yet made the same mistake twice!

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