Royal Roads University carves a niche for students in the energy sector

While British Columbians may hold various opinions on the future of energy distribution in the province, they can all agree that maximizing sustainability is vital to the industry’s future. And as more clean energy projects take root in B.C., the opportunities for job-seekers will only continue to increase.

Dr. Ann Dale, a professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability at Royal Roads University, describes B.C. as a “living laboratory for sustainability.” While big energy projects like pipelines often take center stage, there exist over 156 renewable energy projects in the province related to wind and solar power, run-of-river hydro, large hydro, biomass and biogas.

In 2014, these renewable energy projects alone employed 14,100 people, 7,700 of which are direct jobs.

These jobs go beyond engineers and tradespersons to include graduates from the natural and social sciences. Dale says Royal Roads is preparing their students for these opportunities by offering interdisciplinary and integrated programming, “because [sustainability] problems are beyond any one sector, any one discipline, to solve.”

Her Royal Roads colleague, Dr. Leslie King, Director of the Canadian Centre for Environmental Education, adds that now that the Canadian government has ratified the Paris Agreement of COP 21, the country will need more people working to meet greenhouse gas targets.

“There should be lots of opportunities for students in those energy fields,” King explained.

For those looking to enter this industry, here are just a few of the career paths that await students and graduates in environmental programs:

Sustainability Consulting

Sustainability consultants work in firms, helping a diverse range of clients improve their organizations’ environmental performance. They do so by assessing a company’s carbon footprint, sourcing or developing environmentally-friendly products and assisting them in meeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Depending on the nature of the assignment, a sustainability consultant could be found drafting programs and processes to help their clients avoid environmental risks, attending training seminars and networking events or providing sustainability training to coworkers and clients.

Energy Auditing

As an energy auditor, it’s your responsibility to evaluate and reduce a client’s energy consumption. Whether you’re conducting an in-depth analysis or a quick scan, you will consider a company’s energy consumption across the board. Any inefficiencies in the system need to be consolidated in a technical report, which you then provide to the client. Homes, commercial buildings and industrial plants can all require inspection by an energy auditor.

Air Quality Assessment 

An air quality specialist has to ensure a company’s emissions and airborne pollutants remain at levels that meet government regulations and will not cause potentially harmful conditions. Specialists often conduct emission-impact assessments of factories and manufacturing plants as well as proposed projects to ensure any new buildings are up to code. In addition to measuring and testing systems, those who pursue this career will apply their knowledge and understanding of meteorology and climate science to assessment results.

Waste Management

Being a waste management specialist is about more than reducing, reusing and recycling; It’s about designing and implementing systems that maximize waste prevention at a large scale. In their mission to protect the environment, waste management specialists conduct company assessments before preparing specific, targeted strategies. These specialists often lead teams of consultants, engineers and processing experts, so people skills are key.

For students looking to pursue a career in these fields, Dale offers this advice: “Don’t compromise what you love in order to get a job. You have to be passionate about what you’re taking, or else you won’t excel at your education.”