Meet the young professionals leading the charge on energy efficiencyGrowing up amidst a climate crisis, these leaders are building a more sustainable future
August 12, 2021
Blogs | News | Workforce Development
- Youth have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and we will be the most impacted by climate change in the future.
- Youth are leading the charge on climate action.
- By expanding its support of green jobs for youth, Canada can address equity, climate, and youth unemployment issues simultaneously.
In 1998, 6-year-old Kelsey Brasil walked onto the raised platform of her elementary school gym. Dubbing herself “Captain Cleanwater,” she gave a speech to her school about water conservation and protection. From a young age, Kelsey learned that her actions can make an impact.
Kelsey’s early initiative on water conservation sparked a lifelong passion for climate change advocacy and education. As a project manager at Efficiency Canada, Kelsey is now building a Career Hub to help young people land green jobs in energy efficiency. Kelsey is one of many passionate young professionals across Canada who are working to address the climate crisis. Today, I want to highlight some of those leaders.
Today is International Youth Day!
The United Nations observed the first International Youth Day on August 12, 2000. Youth Day draws attention to cultural and legal issues that specifically impact young people.
My name is Ive Velikova. I’m a 25-year-old science communicator and Digital Communications Specialist at Efficiency Canada. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t advocating for climate action. I joined my elementary school’s Eco Club, wrote about the greenhouse gas effect in countless school projects, and urged my parents to switch off the lights when they left a room. Early in my career, I launched my podcast Science Sucks to advocate for representation in STEM fields, healthcare equity, and climate action.
A science communicator by training, I (virtually!) completed my Master’s Degree at Laurentian University in October 2020. I started at Efficiency Canada in the final months of my degree, in a position that is partially funded by the ECO Canada Science Horizons Youth Internship. This program provides funding to hire junior professionals under 31 for full-time permanent positions in climate change, environmental protection, and sustainability.
Today’s youth are inheriting a climate crisis and a major economic disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have the most at stake, but can also gain the most from environmental employment policies and actions taken by the government now.
We want to build a sustainable future – but many young people still face barriers to accessing green jobs.
Why prioritize green jobs for youth?
The COVID-19 pandemic has been disproportionately devastating for young people. Since 1976, Canada’s youth unemployment rate has consistently averaged around 14%. At the height of the first wave of the pandemic in May 2020, it reached an all-time high of 29%.
Marginalized communities were hit even harder. Indigenous, racialized, disabled and rural young people face greater barriers to employment. By August 2020, the unemployment rate for youth not in school who identified as a visible minority was 28% – compared to 16% for non-visible minority youth.
In the Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity’s Build Back Better: Expanding Green Jobs for Youth Post-Pandemic report, author Sabrina Guzman Skotnitsky argues that incorporating environmental and employment goals lets us address multiple challenges at once.
Since April 2020, many organizations have been calling for a green and just recovery from COVID-19 that prioritizes climate action as well as economic recovery. Their call has been backed up by numerous reports which show that green recovery measures are proven to create jobs and spur economic growth. Social justice aims can also be met with these policies, given they address the needs of those most hard hit by the pandemic, including youth, migrants, women and BIPOC communities.
By expanding its support of the green sector and green jobs for youth, Canada can address equity, climate, and youth unemployment issues simultaneously. In my network, I see a community of passionate young people doing that work every day.
On International Youth Day, I want to highlight some incredible youth leaders in energy efficiency, including members of our own Efficiency Canada team.
Policy Intern, Efficiency Canada
“Being outdoors surrounded by nature has always contributed significantly to my well-being. When I was nine, my family took me to my father’s home country in Lebanon. I remember swimming in the Mediterranean Sea and coming out with oil streaks on my bathing suit. I realized that human impacts have a very strong and direct influence that can transform our environment. I knew from a young age that I wanted to pick a career path that would allow me to work towards the protection and the betterment of the planet. By working as an intern with Efficiency Canada, I have the opportunity to analyze environmental policies to mitigate the effects of climate change.”
Senior Associate, Medicine Rope Strategies
To Jordyn Burnouf, Canada’s energy efficiency sector could benefit from applying an Indigenous lens to its work. She is a member of Northern Saskatchewan’s Black Lake First Nation, but grew up in a Métis community. As Senior Advisor with Medicine Rope Strategies, she works with local governments and nonprofits to create more opportunities for Indigenous people.
Currently, she’s in the planning stages of a project that will upgrade the energy efficiency performance of homes in Île-à-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan. “All of the local contractors that already exist in our community – we’re going to train them first to do the audits, and then they’ll go in and do the retrofit work.”
Community Engagement Intern, Efficiency Canada
“When I was in high school, I took a class called Geo Planétaire. We were encouraged to dive deeper into subjects that interested us and I found myself learning more and more about sustainability. It took one Google search to find a post-secondary program that coupled my interests in environment and business.”
Claire now studies in the Environment and Business undergraduate program at the University of Waterloo. She’s had co-op placements and internships working for economic development agencies, the federal government, and small businesses. “It took me a while to realize just how many opportunities are out there in energy efficiency and sustainability. It has been really helpful to grow my network and learn how I can build experience in the sector!”
Climate Tech Fellow, On Deck
Jesse is a western Canadian who was transplanted to (and fell in love with!) the east coast. She holds a M.Sc. in Environmental Science and has focused her professional career on energy efficiency and climate change mitigation. She recently joined On Deck as a Climate Tech, an organization that brings together entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers and advisors to navigate the climate tech landscape.
Always a policy wonk, Jesse is dedicated to helping people connect with and engage in civic life. She founded the non-partisan group Young Voters of PEI and has worked extensively on public engagement in democratic institutions. Jessie is Nova Scotia’s Regional Champion in energy efficiency advocacy.
Energy Coordinator, City of Charlottetown
Hammad is the Energy Coordinator for the Capital City of Prince Edward Island, where he is responsible for implementing the Community Energy Plan. A registered Engineer in Training (E.I.T), he works to reduce corporate energy demand and shift to renewable energy.
Hammad is a passionate community leader who has supported community-based energy projects designed to increase energy literacy and community involvement. Currently, he is working on implementing a PACE funding program in Charlottetown with the help of PACE Atlantic and other partners. Hammad is Prince Edward Island’s Regional Champion in energy efficiency advocacy.
Career Hub Project Manager, Efficiency Canada
Our very own Captain Cleanwater, Kelsey Brasil is a passionate changemaker with a love for meaningful connections and partnerships. Originally from Ontario, she fell in love with Halifax studying Sustainability and Planning at Dalhousie University, and has made a second home on the east coast.
Prior to joining Efficiency Canada, Kelsey managed Efficiency Nova Scotia’s community outreach program, Green Schools NS – connecting students to Energy efficiency behaviours they can adopt to protect our Earth. Energy efficiency quickly became a career focus once she saw the ways it empowers youth to take action, helps Canadians save money and afford their bills, and the solutions it brings to the climate crisis.
Let’s help youth build back better
Many youth right now feel hopeless about our future – so we’re eager to taking action. If we want to address both the climate crisis and the youth unemployment crisis caused by COVID-19 in an effective and equitable way, we need to help more youth enter the environmental field. This is an opportunity for Canada to live up to our title as a climate leader, build back better, and pave the way forward into a just future.
Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity. (May 2021) Build Back Better: Expanding Green Jobs for Youth Post Pandemic. Retrieved August 12, 2021, from https://ccyp-ccpj.wildapricot.org/resources/Fellows/FINAL_ENGLISH_GREENJOBS_SABRINA_MAY2021.pdf
Corkal, V., Gabs, P., & Cosbey, A. (2020, June 07). Green Strings: Principles and Conditions for a Green Recovery from COVID -18 in Canada (Rep.). Retrieved August 12, 2021, from International Institute for Sustainable Development website: https://www.iisd.org/publications/green-strings-recovery-covid-19-canada
Just Recovery For All. (2020). We demand a Just Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic. Retrieved March 25, 2021, from https://justrecoveryforall.ca/
Statistics Canada. (August 4, 2020) Labour Force Survey, August 2020. Retrieved 12 August, 2020, from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200904/dq200904a-eng.htm
Trading Economics (2021). Canada Youth Unemployment Rate, 1976-2021 Data. Retrieved August 12 2021, from https://tradingeconomics.com/canada/youth-unemployment-rate