In the next ten years, 14% of Canada’s environmental workforce is expected to retire (ECO Canada, 2010 Profile of Canadian Environmental Employment). This will create excellent job opportunities and career advancement for those working in the sector, but on the flip-side, will leave a knowledge gap as the sector loses its most skilled and experienced workers. To facilitate learning and knowledge transfer between junior and senior certified Environmental Professionals (EPs), ECO Canada launched the EP Mentorship Program and rolls-out the second season September 2012.
The EP Mentorship Program is the forum for experienced EPs, the “mentors,” and less experienced Environmental Professionals-in-Training (EPts), the “protégés,” to discuss professional growth, project planning and execution, and work etiquette in the environment sector.
When anonymously surveyed about the value gained from the 2011 Mentorship Program, one mentor said, “Protégés have the opportunity to learn from more experienced environmental professionals and mentors have an opportunity to make a difference in another’s professional life – this contributes to the advancement of the profession."
Giving back to the environmental community is noted as the primary motivator for participating mentors. Another mentor said, "It gives me satisfaction to be able to help another individual. It's like paying back to the community for whatever blessings I have received." For some mentors, the program provides the platform to assist new immigrants who recently transitioned into the sector. As immigrants themselves, these mentors are passionate about helping new immigrants succeed in Canada and even participate as guest speakers at networking breakfasts for members of the Environmental Immigrant Bridging Program.
Curriculum and direction is provided to support the relationship between the mentor and protégé. Matches are encouraged to connect once or twice per month for an hour or two to complete exercises and activities. The program provides some structure to ensure a two-way learning experience and addresses areas such as professional development and career planning. A third mentor commented that “it’s unlikely that two careers in the environment sector follow the same path or progress in the same way; the program allows for reflection and new learning for both the mentor and the protégé.”
Matches are made based on geographic proximity and areas of specialization within the environmental sector. Considering the multi-disciplinary nature of the sector and the remote locations that many junior professionals are stationed for fieldwork, making matches is not an easy task. Some matches successfully connect through Skype or by teleconference, if face-to-face meetings are not feasible.
It is anticipated that the 2012 program will successfully create more than 40 matches. The program will continue to focus on helping EPts navigate the environment space, and to facilitate lasting relationships with EPs who have “been around the block”.
Certified EPs and EPts are encouraged to apply for next year’s program by logging into their Certified Member Account and starting the application under “Volunteer.” Questions regarding the Mentorship Program can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.