For more than 35 years as an educator, Hamilton Greenwood has proudly watched the majority of his students secure careers in the natural resources industry.
He doesn’t see that trend changing any time soon.
“It’s a pretty secure job market. We have a planet that we need to take care of,” said the faculty member of Natural Resource Technology programs at Saskatchewan Polytechnic in Prince Albert.
Students, regardless the program they choose, are spurred by a general curiosity in the subject matter. Upgrade that curiosity to a passion or genuine love, apply it to your studies and you’re almost guaranteed to find work.
“I’ve never met a student, someone who was really passionate about it, who really wanted to get a job in this field, who couldn’t,” Hamilton said. “That 20 to 30 per cent of the class that is extremely driven and focused, they find work extraordinarily easily. The next 30 per cent has to work a little harder to find that perfect job, but they find it.”
It’s vital to the industry that they do apply their training and education to the field. Preserving and maintaining the forest resources and all of its living creatures is critical in today’s world and for future generations.
“Professional foresters and professional forest technologists are the first line of contact,” Hamilton said. “How much can we take? How much can we put back? Who are we impacting? These are some of the questions they answer. So, they are an extraordinarily key component from not just a forestry perspective but from a sustainable management of our environment.”
Saskatchewan Polytechnic, as well as the University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina, albeit using different teaching methods, offer programs that prepare students to enter the natural resources sector.
At Saskatchewan Polytechnic under the Natural Resource Technologies (NRT) umbrella are three courses intrigued students can choose. They are:
- Integrated Resource Management: This program offers the most forestry courses. It includes fisheries, wildlife and various supportive technical skills. Most employees hired by the forestry sector come from this program.
- Resource Environmental Law (REL): Students in this program will learn regulations pertaining to forestry harvest and forestry activities in compliance with environmental monitoring. The people who do this get their first training in the REL program. It is not likely graduates from this program will work directly with forestry industry, but they may work for the Ministry of Environment either provincially or federally to administer and track rules and laws and regulations.
- Geographic Information Science (GIS): A large number of graduates from this program work directly and indirectly with forestry interests in Saskatchewan. In today’s world, you cannot manage any landscape without being equipped to use a computer with a mapping system and interactive GPS technologies so that you know where you are and what you’re harvesting.
Hamilton said it’s common for students to take two of the three courses offered, as each blend nicely with the others. About one-third of GIS students are graduates from other Saskatchewan Polytechnic NRT programs.
Because the natural resources industry is constantly changing, especially now when it is experiencing rapid change, each course within this program at Saskatchewan Polytechnic undergoes a thorough review process. Industry representatives work in concert with program directors to dissect and learn what is new and what has changed within the curriculum.
“Inevitably, there are huge changes that come about with our curriculum every five years,” Hamilton explained. “All of our programs are current – things like global warming and sustainable development, species endangerment – have hit a point in the cycle of this earth that I believe are critical. So, my teaching has changed radically in 30-plus years.”
The curriculum changes, but the students, according to Hamilton, remain consistent in their approach.
“The people who come into our programs are people who are not driven by the buck and not driven by a career that is going to end up being financially rewarding in terms of a six-figure salary,” Hamilton explained. “Instead, they are driven by concept of stewardship that they want to participate and they want to leave the world in a better place.”