Preparing the next generation of Green Collar Professionals

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Alumni Profile: Andrew Cahill, BSc ’14

Headshot of Andrew Cahill standing in front of a brick wallGreen jobs have developed as a direct response to the need to combat climate change and the potentially catastrophic effects to our planet. As global temperatures rise, fresh water resources are depleting and traditional energy sources becoming increasingly more expensive to access. Without question, it will take a huge effort across every country to fix the dire state of the world.

The rapid and varied emergence of green careers globally might come as a surprise to some, but not to science alumnus, Andrew Cahill, who finds himself deep in the process of preparing the next generation of so–called green collar professionals. Cahill works as the Green Careers Program Manager for Relay Education, a charitable organization dedicated to delivering hands-on programming regarding renewable energy, climate change and green careers for children, teens and even university students.

According to Cahill, green careers refer to any job that works towards a net positive for the planet and the environment. While we often think of careers that are science or engineering based and working towards a more energy efficient world, protecting wildlife or finding ways to combat climate change, Cahill emphasizes “the reality is that there many more careers that could be considered green: a landscape environmentalist, urban planner or even a documentary filmmaker who highlights the plight of the planet can be a green career.”

As an alumnus of the University of Waterloo, Cahill is keen to participate in science education presented to students in a way that showcases the potential benefits of green intervention. He marvels at the mindset of youngsters who already accept that climate change is real and are keen to move on to finding solutions. Cahill is amazed by their passion, “with some adults, the argument is still about who should be blamed for climate change or whether it’s even anthropogenic. We don’t see that mindset in the younger generation. They accept it needs to be addressed and that they CAN do something, and have an incredible determination to change the environmental trajectory of this planet.”

Relay Education logoCahill has been with Relay Education for the past 2 years, having worked as a solar panel installer prior to joining up with Relay. While the charity started off just catering to Toronto residents, they started teaching educational courses in renewable energy to grades 4-6 across Ontario by the mid 2000s. Since then they have expanded their teaching to elementary and high schools nationwide. According to their website, Relay Education engaged more than 19,400 students and adults last year alone.

Cahill describes a number of STEM workshops that Relay facilitates which focus on climate and renewable energy, wind and solar energy. “Teachers love it. It fits their curriculum and we can provide a meaningful experience to their classes. Rather than just listening to the presenter, these students are performing experiments with model wind turbines and solar panels.” Relay also offers a secondary workshop on green careers, focussing on jobs in renewable energy, sustainability, energy efficiency and environmental conservation. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cahill says Relay Education has moved to providing these workshops virtually.

In addition to the workshops, Cahill also co-hosts a green careers podcasts, aptly called, In the Green Chair, which showcases a wide variety of green jobs available. Guests of his podcast describe their career and work projects as well as stress the positive impact their work has on the global environmental stage. With a goal of having a new episode every 2 weeks, Cahill is confident that they are providing information young people can relate to. Their listeners will see what the industry is like and be able to decide for themselves how to have a direct role in combatting climate change.

So far, Cahill is adamant that the green message is being heard loud and clear by today’s youth. “These young people are determined to not just slow but reverse the adverse effects of climate change and begin mitigating those already occurring. They want to preserve species and ecosystems, and ensure we have a livable environment on our planet for generations to come. The knowledge they gain during the workshop makes them feel empowered.”

Empowered youth. The future has never been greener.