Youth, Students & Young Professionals Resource Page
The definition of Youth in a parks context varies among countries, organizations, and funding opportunities. To ensure the inclusions of a broader category of Youth, the terms Students and Young Professional will also be employed here.
As Parks strive to diversify their workforce, youth, students, and young professionals will be integral in shaping the future of Parks and Protected Areas. CPCIL is committed to connecting this new generation of park leaders with the resources they need to explore their options, engage in meaningful opportunities, and connect to experienced mentors in their field.
Youth, Students & Young Professionals in Parks
Intergenerational cooperation is elemental in forwarding the possibility and power of protected places. New voices help to bring different perspectives to complicated issues such as climate change, sustainable tourism, and inclusion in the outdoors. It is more important than ever to encourage and foster the passion that young people and fresh minds have for the land.
Project Learning Tree Canada (PLT Canada) is a bilingual charity committed to fostering inclusive environmental education and growing a diverse and resilient Green Jobs workforce, using trees and forests as windows on the world.
In partnership with Project Learning Tree, CPCIL hires aspiring and emerging parks and protected areas leaders.
There are a lot of ways to enter Parks and Protected Areas as a professional. Parks require everyone from Human Resource Managers, to Civil Engineers, to Wildlife Biologists in order to function effectively. Whatever your interest, you are likely to be able to find a place in Parks and Protected Areas.
Where to Start
When looking into your future, it can be easy to get overwhelmed choosing a career path. There are so many avenues and opportunities – and there’s a good chance you will work in various sectors and roles throughout your career. The reality is, however, you need to start somewhere. But where do you start? Green jobs offers a number of resources to help you explore different careers, which ones might suit you best, and what skills to begin focusing on.
Once you have been introduced to some of the options available to you, you can begin to disseminate your own conservation goals and values. You can likewise begin to develop your leadership philosophies and identify spaces that you connect with. It can be helpful to start by reflecting on some of the following questions
- Review current job postings to see what experience, skills and abilities are needed for particular roles.
- Consider reaching out to an organization to discuss education, work experience and skills they value in future employees.
Advice from Park Leaders
In 2020, the CPCIL Knowledge Gatherers conducting a series of interviews with Park Leaders from diverse perspectives and varying backgrounds. Many of them provided advice for aspiring conservationists.
Networking, seeking mentorship, and reaching out to current park professionals was the number one piece of advice the leaders gave. From building a network of professionals that can help you reach leadership goals to creating a solid support system of parks people who understand the challenges of being a visible minority, connecting to current park leaders can help young professionals navigate a vast and sometimes overwhelming career path. “Mentorship is important. That was a critical component of helping me figure out where to go and how to navigate certain situations” – Nadha Hassen
Early in your career is the perfect time to try different things. While it is important to know your core values, a lot of different paths can honour you passions. “Especially when you’re young, when opportunities come up that may send you in different directions, take them because you can always come back. You can always find a way to if you really want to be in that place and that spot in that organization. The more experiences you get in different areas, the more you can bring back to those tables” – Daniella Rubeling
While you do not need to have everything figured out early in your career, a couple of the leaders touched on the importance of understand your own philosophies on topics such as leadership, conservation, and connection. Find what inspires you and build on it, and be patient with yourself as you figure it out. “It’s different for every young woman that I meet, but I think that it comes down to spending time getting to know yourself and really figuring out what it is that you love. This can take a long time” – Dawn Carr, in regards to women in conservation
The path of discovering your passions is ongoing, so follow it. As intimidating as a new career can be, it is important to explore and just go for it. In Nadha Hassen’s words, ” We don’t know what we don’t know, so actively explore and learn”.
You do not have to know everything when you are starting out, so be honest about your abilities and your willingness to learn. You are new to this, and that is okay. Highlight your strengths and kills, of course, but do not be afraid to acknowledge that you are learning. “Don’t try and oversell yourself, even though you’re young. Just be honest about what it is you might have to bring to the table and what you would like to learn” – Dawn Carr.
Although not totally dissimilar to the first point, finding your people is more about having the structures to withstand the more challenging points of your career, especially if you are someone who identifies as part of an underrepresented group. Your identity and your supports need to exist both inside and outside of work. “You have to have a good support structure. It’s going to take some time for people to change their mindsets and biases towards the stereotypes. Dealing with those things, you ahve to be able to find a mentor, to talk to people with similar experiences and resource groups within your workplace. And maybe you’re lucky enough to find somebody who undertsands exactly what you’ve expereinced, and they can guide you moving forwards as a mentor. Having that support system is important. It could be friends, it could be family, it could be cowrokers, or even another mentor in that field who is not necessarily a person of colour, but someone who is willing to help. Those connections make a difference.”- Kayode Adeyemi
Sometimes, entry into a career path can feel like an uphill battle. People often come to parks and protected areas through passion, which can be both exciting and draining. This type of work tends to add up over time, in small increments. “I would also put faith in the process of working hard every day on something you love and to focus on that, because you before you know it, wheou look back, yn you’ll see this big body of work that you’ve been able to move forward.”- Dawn Carr
It’s true when they say that it’s a small world. Value entry-level positions and opportunities by building and maintaining a positive reputation with employers. Your experience, combined with their ability to provide a positive reference is invaluable for growth and future opportunities.
Events are a fantastic resource for meeting individuals and exposing yourself to an organization or sector. Depending on the event, they can also provide you with opportunities for you to introduce yourself and share your perspectives or even deliver your professional career pitch.
Events can also expose you to the values, challenges and opportunities within an organization.
Perhaps there’s an organization you would love to work for one day, but they don’t have any current job opportunities – or perhaps you don’t qualify for the role yet. Volunteering is an alternate way of connecting with and gaining relative experience with an organization. Plus, you get to network with people either working with the organization, or with people who share common interests.
Join the Conservation
The Canadian Committee for the IUCN (CCIUCN) has recently launched a Young Professionals Network. The network “was initiated after several conversations with different partners in the sector that wished to connect with our young professionals in Canada and make sure they are supported and empowered to raise their voices, at a national and international scale.”
Experience & Career Development Programs
The Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP) provides full-time secondary or post-secondary students in a recognized academic institution with the opportunity to work in their field of study and develop their skills. Read more here.
Parks Canada offers co-operative work terms for students in post-secondary co-op programs. Under these programs, students are offered paid internships while continuing their education and they must be registered in a CO-OP program offered at their accredited educational institution. Read more here.
We inspire Canadian youth from all backgrounds to discover the rich and diverse natural and cultural heritage of Canada.
We find creative ways to inspire a love of nature and culture as we present some of the coolest Parks Canada projects. By linking networks, creating digital content and using social media platforms, we ensure you get the best of Parks Canada! Read more here.
The Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRA) has secured Government of Canada funding via the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS) Program to support job placements for youth, particularly those facing barriers to employment. Officially entitled the CPRA Youth Employment Experience, this program will provide direct financial support (via 100% wage subsidies) to local governments, allowing them to offer placements that will focus on youth gaining a broad range of skills, knowledge and experience in the community parks and recreation sector. Not only will this program provide hands-on training, but each youth will be paired with a mentor at their place of employment to provide an immersive experience. Via this program, local governments will be able to hire additional youth to advance their parks and recreation priorities. Read more here.
The Newcomer Youth Green Economy Project (NYGEP) is a powerful opportunity for newcomer youth ages 18-29 to start or advance a career in the Canadian environmental sector and grow professionally through job skills training, networking events, project placements, mentorship, field trips, and community connections. Read more here.
Participants in the program are not required to complete a project, task, or reports. Rather, we encourage both the Mentor and Mentee to set personal and professional goals for their 12-month experience in the programme during their first two meetings. CoalitionWILD places an emphasis on co-learning, co-creating, and co-mentoring throughout the program, highlighting the importance of cross-generational interactions and conversations. Read more here.
Plenty Canada invites youth from all backgrounds, aged 15-30, to join us for a cross-cultural, cross-generational dialogue over the course of our Truth and Reconciliation Training Program. Engage in a rich learning experience, delving into the history and culture of Indigenous peoples in this region of Turtle Island. You, along with a small group of like-minded youth will get a unique opportunity to hear from and learn alongside leading Indigenous change makers, artists, Elders, and knowledge holders. This program represents a hands-on opportunity to learn about different Indigenous traditions, innovation, leadership, and culture.
You will also get an opportunity to develop a community engagement project with mentorship and support from Plenty Canada staff as well as fellow program participants. Read more here.
The Canadian Wilderness Stewardship Program (CWSP) is an educational experience designed to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards in Canada by connecting youth to nature and their local communities.
The three core components of the program are:
- A CPAWS-led expedition of a regional watershed in need of protection;
- Participant-led, volunteer community service projects focused on conservation or education; and
- A summit where participants share knowledge and develop skills in civic engagement, conservation, leadership, and advocacy.
Programming is currently offered by CPAWS chapters in Manitoba, Southern Alberta, the Ottawa Valley and New Brunswick. There is no cost for participants. Read more here.
The Youth Employment Program provides youth with employment opportunities in BC Parks and the Conservation Officer Service (COS), while receiving mentorship from existing BC Parks and COS staff. We encourage anyone enrolled full-time at an accredited secondary, or post-secondary institution within the last six months to apply. This work experience is a great opportunity to broaden your skillset, no matter your field of study. Read more here.
The Yukon Youth Conservation Corps (Y2C2) is a summer employment and training program for Yukon students. It focuses on environmental education and enhancement.
Crews of 4 to 5 students work on a diverse array of conservation projects throughout the Yukon. These projects are proposed and overseen by community groups, First Nations, federal and territorial governments, municipalities and individuals. Conservation Action Team Leaders facilitate 8 to 10 day expedition programs for youth entering grades 7 to 10. Read more here.
International Marine Protected Areas Congresses (IMPAC) are an opportunity for the global community of marine conservation managers and practitioners to exchange knowledge, experience and best practices to strengthen the conservation of marine biodiversity and to protect the natural and cultural heritage of the ocean.
The IMPAC5 Youth Committee is working to ensure that young leaders from the international marine protected area (MPA) community, Indigenous groups and other related backgrounds will be heard at IMPAC5 and beyond. Read more here.
Certain roles within the parks and protected areas sector require specific skills and credentials. Alternatively, gaining more accredited skills can put you at a competitive advantage and catch the eyes of recruiters. Below are some programs and courses that may be of interest to you to add to your resume – or to simply expand your skillset.
Degrees, Diplomas & Certifications
This is a CPCIL Knowledge Gatherer generated list of potential educational paths for those interested in a parks career. The degrees within this list will generally fall into one of the following topics: Earth Sciences, Environmental Management, Environmental Sciences/Studies, Forestry, Geography, Outdoor Guiding/Adventure Studies, Tourism/Ecotourism, Sustainability/Sustainable Development
Environment, Ecology, Wildlife & Conservation
There are several education programs available across Canada pertaining to environment, ecology, wildlife and conservation. Some programs offer general and wide-range studies within a sector (ex. Environmental Sciences), while others specialize within specific micro sectors (ex. Forestry or Geography).
Canadian Universities Net
Conservation: National Trust for Canada
Canadian College and University Environmental Network
Forestry: Canadian Forestry Web
Tourism & Outdoor Recreation
The Outdoor Council of Canada (OCC) is the umbrella organization for the Canadian outdoor sector. In addition to providing their own certification programs, they have compiled a list of organizations and institutions offering certifications, programs and resources for outdoor leadership and professional development.
Free Online Certifications for College & University Students
Climate change and Indigenous People and local communities
Urban Nature: Connecting Cities, Nature and Innovation
Climate Change and Water in Mountains: A Global Concern
Inclusive Leadership: The Power of Workplace Diversity
Agriculture, Economics and Nature
Ecology: Ecosystem Dynamics and Conservation
Job & Volunteer Opportunities
CPCIL continuously posts current job and volunteer opportunities within parks and protected areas, as well as with organizations with common initiatives (eg. conservation, research, outdoor leadership).
Grants & Awards
Young Champions of the Earth
The Young Champions of the Earth Award celebrates and supports seven environmental leaders between 18 – 30 years old who have outstanding potential to create positive environmental impact.
Each year, seven young people are selected from each region of the world to receive seed funding, intensive training, and tailored mentoring to bring their big ideas to life. #YoungChamps are artists, scientists, economists, communicators, and entrepreneurs.
Being a #YoungChamp is more than an honorary title. The Award nurtures the next generation of environmental leaders and connects them to a community of passionate and committed colleagues and experts. Read more here.
Courses for Indigenous youth allow participants to meet and learn from other youth from Nations and communities while participating in an Outward Bound experience. The courses are offered in regions across the country and include backpacking, hiking, canoeing and kayaking.
Funding for these courses is offered thanks to the generous support of individual donors, corporations and a number of dedicated foundations, providing sustainable, long-term funding for the growth of programming for Indigenous participants at Outward Bound Canada. Read more here.
Duke of Edinburgh’s Award
The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award creates opportunities for young people to develop skills, get physically active, give service and experience adventure.
Adding thisAward to your CV and LinkedIn profile will enable you to stand out from the crowd. Including the skills you have developed outside of the classroom will demonstrate to employers that you have the qualities they require. Read more here.
Leadership Award For Black Youth, Indigenous Youth and Youth of Colour
This Leadership Award gives young people the opportunity to fund their participation on select Outward Bound Canada programs. The award provides youth with the chance to join other young leaders from different cultural backgrounds and lived experiences on an extended wilderness-based leadership expedition, to connect with themselves and their peers; and to further develop their leadership potential. Read more here.
CPCIL hosts monthly webinars with various topics and themes. The webinars highlighted below are especially relative to youth, young professionals and aspiring leaders.