Canada’s Ocean Supercluster has announced a new innovation ecosystem project called Blue Futures Pathways Project.

The project is focused on building capabilities and the development of workers to support the growth of Canada’s ocean economy. Its total value is $2.4 million. The Ocean Supercluster will provide almost $1.5 million in funding with the balance coming from project partners.

“This is about helping build our future in oceans and equipping young people aged 18-30 with the right skills at the right time, removing barriers, and providing the training, mentoring, and support they need to pursue a career in ocean,” said Kendra MacDonald, CEO of Canada’s Ocean Supercluster. “We are proud to make an investment of $1.5 million to this $2.4 million project that will see the creation of 150 internships, and engage at least 250 employers and 2,500 youth in the digital port.”

Blue Futures Pathways will connect youth across Canada with education and employment, and support participants in developing a successful career in the sustainable blue economy. The project is supportive of all youth aged 18-30. It will have a particular focus on the inclusion and inspiration of under-represented, remotely located, and Indigenous people.

“I am proud to see Canada’s Ocean Supercluster forging an exciting path for one of our most important resources—Canadian youth,” said William Amos, parliamentary secretary to the minister of innovation, science, and industry. “The Blue Futures Pathways program will inspire Canadian youth and help them access opportunities to lead and succeed in the emerging Sustainable Blue Economy.”

The project is led by the Students on Ice Foundation. Its partners include the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship (COVE) and ECO Canada. Students on Ice is also receiving support from Mitacs. Together, the partners will create 150 internships and guide youth towards sustainable blue economy careers. They will also build and launch a digital platform called the Port where employers and supporters can communicate opportunities to the next generation of workers.

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The Port will provide employers with tools, training, and a support-network on how best to nurture youth, especially under-represented youth within their workplace. Participants will also receive training to prepare them for the specific dynamics and culture of the workplace where career-specific and personal growth-related mentorship connections will be cultivated on a dedicated program on the Port.  Mentorship will also form a strong part of the paid internships that will be piloted in a number of regions across the country.

“As the Sustainable Blue Economy emerges in Canada, it is important for youth to be well-positioned to participate in, and lead its success,” said Geoff Green, founder and president of the Students on Ice Foundation. “Students on Ice is a global leader in environmental education and youth engagement, with more than 20 years of experience leading educational expeditions to the Arctic, Antarctic, and across Canada’s vast coastline during Canada C3.”

“Bringing together Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth, educators and partners to learn about and help conserve our vital ecosystems is core to our mission,” added Green. “We look forward to growing our impact on youth and on the future of Canada’s ocean and freshwater resources through Blue Futures Pathways.”

Blue Futures Pathways intends to:

  • Provide youth with opportunities within ocean tech companies in Nova Scotia.
  • Engage youth across the Arctic in monitoring ocean health.
  • Provide an understanding of suburban wastewater management in Ontario and the Prairies.
  • Provide training the next generation of bio-monitors in British Columbia.

“The Blue Futures Pathways Project will enable First Nations youth to be exposed to a range of sectors in the Blue Economy including shipping, science, fishing, tourism, conservation, technology, renewable energy, food security and policy,” noted Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

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“We must equip our young people with the skills and knowledge to mutually benefit from these resources,” added Bellegarde. “The Assembly of First Nations is pleased that the Blue Futures Project will provide First Nations youth with education and training to develop the skills they need for sustainable careers. We are in support of SOI’s Blue Futures Project as it supports a sustainable future for all generations to come.”

The Blue Futures Pathways project aims to engage at least 250 employers on the digital port, with at least 2,500 youth engaging in the sustainable blue economy training, mentoring, and employment opportunities made available through it. The target reach for the Port is 5 million impressions by August 2022.

“ECO Canada (ECO) is pleased to offer our support for Blue Futures Pathways,” said Kevin Nilsen, president and CEO of ECO Canada. “This exciting initiative involving education, internship, employability, and workforce training is a direct response to current workforce needs within the Sustainable Blue Economy and we are happy to harness our team’s talents, expertise, and networks to ensure a successful project outcome.”

Water Canada will be hosting the Keys to a Blue Economy discussion series starting in January 2021. This four-part series focuses on how Canada should define its blue economy and all of the key elements that will ensure a strong national water sector. More information is available here.

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