One third of the forest sector’s workforce is set to retire in the next decade. Mentorship is an important way to inspire and help recruit the next generation of forest leaders.
Project Learning Tree Canada (PLT Canada), an initiative of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), launched its Green Mentor program (#MyGreenMentor) last spring to help young people expand their forest and conservation knowledge, goals and network.
The second cohort is running from January to June 2021, and applications for mentors close November 16, 2020. If you have over three years of professional experience, are available for 2-3 hours a month, and want to share your experiences with young people interested in Canada’s green sector, you should apply. You might even meet potential future employees!
PLT Canada’s mentors said that they gain just as much from the program as their mentees. Mentorship is a great way to develop leadership skills, hear new perspectives and foster the growth of the forest and conservation sector.
Andrew de Vries, Manager of Indigenous Opportunities & Government Relations at Tolko Industries Ltd., has coached and managed people in the past, but he’d never been a part of a formal mentorship program before PLT Canada’s Green Mentor program.
“I liked the structure of the mentorship program and the resources that were available because it allows you to focus the discussion,” said de Vries.
He was matched with a student on the other coast, Vicky Papuga, and he said he was surprised at how well the mentorship matching software worked. PLT Canada uses an industry-leading algorithm to create successful mentorship matches based on personalities, goals, interests and more.
“It was very interesting to see how much we shared in common—not just academically, but personality-wise,” said de Vries.
Étienne Vézina, Resolute FP’s Manager of Forestry and Certification, was another Green Jobs mentor who helped his mentee, Catherine Langille, become more aware of all the opportunities awaiting her in the forest and conservation sector.
Langille became a source of motivation for him beyond the calls—her questions reminded him of some of his own experiences, he said.
“The benefits are for both parties. I think people with less experience are looking to be introduced to the forestry sector in general, and it brings you to think about stuff that you’re not really looking at on a day-to-day basis,” he said. Another benefit is that the program can bring new people into forestry.
Although mentors help guide their mentees, the mentees drive the mentorship relationship. Mentees set goals for themselves and specify topics for each meeting. They engage in self-reflection, seek to improve specific skills and habits, and learn about green career pathways.
Langille said the program changed her life.
“I am happy to have him as a forever connection,” she said. “He gave me the confidence to do the things I didn’t think I could do.”
Vézina said the best part of the experience was seeing Langille evolve over the six-month mentorship.
“Even a small step forward is a great achievement for a mentor to see—the mentee ready to go toward their objective and what we have discussed, that’s really cool,” he said. And de Vries said although it might be a cliché, being a mentor is a chance to give back.
“I’ve learned a lot from teachers and coaches and managers over my career,” he said. “I got to provide Vicky with some of the insights and knowledge from all the different folks that I’ve learned from and continue to learn from in my career.”
PLT Canada’s Green Mentor program connects young people aged 18-30 with Green Jobs professionals. The six-month mentorship program involves meeting up (in person or virtually) two or three hours a month. The program plays a key role in supporting young professionals and guiding them forward along their career path in the forest sector. Our mentorship program is also designed to help increase diversity, as mentorship can help youth overcome barriers and find employment success.
Forest and conservation professionals who want to inspire the next generation of leaders, recruit employees and gain new perspectives should apply to become mentors.