Why green internships are worth it

Green Internships help young people gain skills and work experience at environmental organizations.  Internships provide meaningful paid employment opportunities for youth and benefit organizations that may not be able to hire someone.

Relay Education was a recipient of a Natural Resources Canada grant that awarded non-profit organizations with funding to be a coordinator of paid internships and provide career and skills training for youth. The program subsidized the salaries of internship positions at environmental organizations.

Four young employees and employers share their experience about why green internships are beneficial, and how funding for longer-term placements is important for both.

1. Julia Pitcher and Kylik Kisoun Taylor of Tundra North Tours

Tundra North Tours is an Inuit company based in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada. An eco-tourism company devoted to providing visitors with authentic arctic experiences.

Julia Pitcher, Tundra North Manager

“This job experience has been amazing. I’ve grown a lot. It’s been valuable to learn in a remote north environment and to see the world less from a corporate urban perspective.

“The wage subsidy was important because we were able to take the time to implement a lot of growth projects for the tourism business. We’re trying to build this village using locally sourced materials…and methods and traditional knowledge to incorporate into the way we run our business to create an immersive, authentic experience for both guests and staff. Having the wage funding was vital in us being able to staff the building part [of the village].”


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Kylik Kisoun Taylor, CEO and Founder of Tundra North Tours

“I appreciate your support, because all of it was going to grind to a halt for a while without support. We had no revenue due to the pandemic and we could have created something for revenue and squeak by, but instead we’re taking the time to map the eco tourism out. Our whole team has been working on it and trying to create something that provides more benefit to the community.”


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2. Shalice Coutu and Shane Laptiste of Studio of Contemporary Architecture 

The Studio of Contemporary Architecture (SOCA) is an architecture and urban design studio dedicated to inclusive city building and the creation of beautiful spaces. SOCA is based in Toronto and focuses on ways that buildings can help to create a low carbon future. They emphasis work on cultural spaces, especially within the black community.

Shalice Coutu, Intern Architect

“It wasn’t something I focused on in school, but seeing the state of the world and climate change, I’ve been pulled to thinking we, as architects and urban planners, need to take a stand now and start designing for the future with green technology at the forefront.”

Shane Laptiste, Principal Architect of SOCA

“Paid internships allow emerging companies to grow in a way that they may not have been able to and bring on a recent graduate who might be with you long term. If you are in the first few years of doing business is it’s an incredible opportunity to have that person grow with the company. That has been incredibly valuable.”

“I think green internships are a good way of supporting businesses and creating opportunities for youth to build the green economy.”


3. Vanessa Wabie and Lindsay McLaren Polson of Ni Dakinan, Timiskaming First Nation

Ni Dakinan is the Land and Natural Resources Department for Timiskaming First Nation, which oversees consultations of environmental projects and species at risk for the community and manages other natural resources and land-based activities.

Vanessa Wabie, Administrative Assistant

“When this opportunity came up, I thought it was a great idea to get into a different line of work. I never was in administrative work before, but they provided me with some administrative assistant training. I do a lot of the day-to-day office work and assist with the Wild Basket, which is a not-for-profit organization that will be created.”

“I think these internships that you offer are important because it gets somebody’s foot in the door. If they didn’t think about a certain line of work before, it gives them a chance to see if they do like it – it gives them the opportunity.”

Lindsay McLaren Polson, Sustainable Development Manager

“We never used to have an administrative assistant, and we have many different projects on the go. For us, you can’t garner just anyone to know all the different things, because even in the government, everyone has their own people to do just forestry or mining or wildlife, but for us everything’s connected. To be able to have someone that could learn a broader sense of natural resources and have a community perspective is important.”

“To have someone from the community, it really meant a lot to be able to give them a learning experience. We wanted to train someone. Vanessa was the perfect person to do that.” 


4. Jaime Kearnan and Leora Berman of The Land Between

The Land Between charity is a grassroots organization that focuses on active stewardship and protection of a vital ecological region. The region The Land Between region spans across south-central Ontario from Georgian Bay to the Ottawa Valley.

Jaime Kearnan, Communications Specialist

“I like the diversity of the position being able to do many different things. It’s been a good combination of both science and the communications. It’s good to see [through our outreach] that people are learning things and hopefully changing the way they’re acting and behaving. I care a lot about the environment and it’s nice to be working towards something that I care about.”

Leora Berman, COO and Founder of The Land Between

“We hired a communications specialist role and Jaime has been an incredible backbone for communicating [our mission]. She’s extremely talented in visual media, has taken the lead on our social media, and her background in biology is very helpful. She’s extremely talented. Thank you for this funding. I’d like to keep Jaime forever and I’m going to try and do that.”

From June to March 2022, Relay coordinated placements for green internships with organizations and youth. 16 organizations hired 27 youth who completed paid internships.

“Internships are important for both the intern and the employer. Young people need to have experience to gain meaningful employment, while employers gain another employee to help grow their organization. Young people can connect with employers and work experiences that they wouldn’t be able to access without internship programs like the one offered by Relay.” – Andrew Cahill, Green Careers Manager, Relay Education

The Green Internships Program is funded through Natural Resources Canada’s Science and Technology Internship Program.