Helping Create a New Generation of Renewable Energy Workers
Forrest Wolfe’s upbringing as a member of Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation in Ontario emphasized the importance of living in harmony with the Earth. In addition, as a 21 year-old college student, he understands that finding solutions to environmental challenges will depend on young people like him. “I feel like my generation is more aware of what’s happening with the world and with environmental issues like climate change,” he says. “We need to take action, because we’re going to be the generation that has to deal with these problems.”
With the passage of the 2009 Green Energy and Green Economy Act, Ontario dramatically increased the region’s capacity for renewable energy production. According to research from the Association of Power Producers in Ontario, progress made since the Act was passed added enough generating capacity to power over eight million new homes while creating an estimated 180,000 direct and indirect jobs in the solar and wind sectors. Many of these jobs have benefitted Indigenous communities. In the past eight years, the growing renewable energy sector has created 15,300 direct jobs for Indigenous Canadians who have earned approximately $842 million in employment income.
Forrest sees an opportunity for a fulfilling career in one of Canada’s growing industries — while also living in accord with his beliefs. He is studying at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario to become a Renewable Energy Technician with a focus on wind power.
Forrest found his calling by attending a Relay Education program focused on building awareness of careers that have a positive impact on the environment. Sponsored by Scotiabank, each year Relay Education leads a series of workshops and programs to introduce young Indigenous people to opportunities in the growing renewable energy sector, promote energy conservation, and show young people how they can help fight climate change. Last year, 215 First Nations youth participated in the program in Ontario.
The program sparks an interest in this career path for many of its participants. According to Relay Education research, six months after completing the program, approximately 65% of program participants reported that they were either “interested” or “very interested” in pursuing a career in the green economy. Forrest says such responses are indicative of his peers’ environmental values.