"SPN Milestones" will highlight achievements and past events involving or presented by the Sustainability Professionals Network.
"Green Jobs: Bridging the Gap"
Timeline: April 2014
In the winter of 2014, a group of McMaster sustainability student interns worked together on a project that would help to bridge the gap between sustainability-minded students and employers within the City of Hamilton.
Graduate student, Simon Webb, focused on identifying types of sustainability-related employment opportunities available to graduating students and the types of skills required. Simon conducted a survey of sustainability professionals, which included members of Hamilton SPN, to obtain information to support his project. From the survey responses received, Simon identified some common themes that are important takeaways for students looking for sustainability-related employment. These takeaway items include: the importance of networking; having interdisciplinary knowledge and understanding; as well as, possessing and displaying a passion for sustainability.
Simon’s survey of sustainability professionals ran in tandem with a second survey that was facilitated by undergraduate sustainability student intern, Connie Cheung. Connie’s survey focused on gaining an understanding of student perceptions of sustainability-related careers and opinions on important qualifications for employment in the field. After the survey was disseminated, two follow-up focus group sessions were held to delve deeper into the quantitative responses.
The survey received a total of 212 responses from McMaster students within different faculties and levels of study. Almost 65% of students indicated that it was important for them to find a job with an employer who values sustainability. Students also ranked experiential learning opportunities, including: co-op; internship; and service learning, as some of the most useful methods in preparing for employment when compared to: curriculum adjustments; assistance in career identification; and volunteer activities. These results were echoed in the follow-up focus groups, where undergraduate and graduate students from Engineering, Life Sciences, and Geography & Environmental Sciences programs emphasized the need for more experiential learning opportunities in order to develop critical thinking and interdisciplinary collaboration skills, which would assist them in their pursuit of sustainability-related careers.
Simon, Connie, and additional members of their project team chose to host an information session and networking event to share this information with sustainability-minded students and employers. The team utilized survey findings to compare and contrast the perspective of employers and students. These findings were used to foster discussion between sustainability professionals and students during the networking event to follow.
The Green Jobs Networking Event was held on April 4th, 2014. The event was attended by 58 McMaster students and 11 sustainability professionals, including members from Hamilton SPN. A follow-up satisfaction survey showed that 95% of students felt the event had fully satisfied their initial reason for attending, and 100% indicated that they were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the event overall.
More information can be found on McMaster’s Academic Sustainability Programs Office website at asp.mcmaster.ca.