Commentary by Leah Butler, Manager, Energy Literacy Initiatives, Atlantica Centre for Energy

The first iteration of Fuel 4 the Future set out to target the lack of awareness the next generation of the workforce has about opportunities, benefits, and considerations related to adopting clean fuels in Atlantic Canada. Through collaboration with post-secondary institutions, industry partners, and Indigenous partners, we set out to innovatively exposed the future workforce to career pathways in the clean fuels sector.

Our goal was to execute at least two clean fuel related events in each of the Atlantic Provinces by March 2024 and connect with approximately 20% of Atlantic Canadian post-secondary students in STEM programs (5100 students). 

This was an ambitious goal that we sought to tackle by creating content that post-secondary students and Indigenous youth would connect with on an engaging website. On there are three Clean Fuels Learning Pathways that teach the user the basics about renewable natural gas, biofuels, and clean hydrogen.

When developing this content, we engaged with Indigenous partners and industry partners to ensure we were presenting accurate and authentic information. Based on valuable feedback from Indigenous Treaty Partners and the North Shore Mi’kmaq Tribal Council we decided to make one of the main characters in the Clean Fuels Learning Pathways an Indigenous woman, and we modified the language we used to make it more accessible. We also had an active presence on social media, and a packed calendar of events. 

Fuel 4 the Future participated in 11 events and hosted 12 events across Atlantic Canada for a total of 23 in-person events and one virtual event. These events ranged from attending career fairs to holding in-class presentations and webinars with industry partners.

We were delighted to have industry representation join us from Liberty, ABO Energy (formerly ABO Wind), Irving Oil Ltd., Port of Belledune, Port of Halifax, Net Zero Atlantic, and econext. Students really enjoyed hearing from industry and learning about clean fuels from the people doing the work every day. Students were able to ask questions not only about employment opportunities, but also more technical and specific questions related to what they’re learning about in school. 

When talking to students some of the questions we heard most were “How can I find a job in the energy sector?” and “Are there any volunteer opportunities?” Post-secondary students want to get involved, they want to contribute to a cleaner future and work for a company doing the same. However, students aren’t aware of all the companies in Atlantic Canada making those changes in the energy sector. 

Another aspect of Fuel 4 the Future was a Clean Fuels Awareness Survey. This survey tested the knowledge that post-secondary students, Indigenous youth, and the general public had about clean fuels. We asked respondents to identify companies they believed to be working in the clean fuels sector in Atlantic Canada, and while a surprising amount chose Irving Oil Ltd., companies like Emera Inc., Liberty and the Port of Belledune were at the bottom of the list.

Giving students the opportunity to talk to industry experts can go a long way in influencing their career path. When attending career fairs throughout Atlantic Canada we noticed quite a few energy companies from Ontario attending as well. We have so many talented students here in Atlantic Canada studying innovative technology to help our energy transition, and they want to stay and work in Atlantic Canada. Showing them that it’s possible is a large undertaking, and Fuel 4 the Future has contributed to this endeavor. 

From September 2023 to March 2024 the Fuel 4 the Future team interacted with over 2500 students in-person, and had over 18,000 visitors. Throughout the course of the project, we built relationships with post-secondary institutions and industry members across Atlantic Canada.

The project has informed the Atlantica Centre for Energy’s energy literacy mandate, and the next steps will be to determine how we can continue to foster these relationships so they can thrive. It has been incredibly rewarding to see this project through from the beginning stages to the end product and to witness the effects it has had on the next generation of the workforce.  

Please visit Fuel 4 the Future’s website for more information.

Read the Final Report of the Fuel 4 the Future project here.