Yesterday evening, Toronto Pearson International Airport’s Propeller Project and the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) Ontario announced the establishment of a unique collaboration designed to support the employment of Canadian newcomers.

The collaboration between Toronto Pearson and SSE will focus on identifying entry level jobs in the rapidly expanding green economy, creating training opportunities, and blazing long-term career pathways in climate-ready industries like renewable energy and the management of more frequent natural disasters in Canada.

 In October 2017, SSE launched SELECT (Social Entrepreneurial Leaders Enabling Climate Transitions), a practical six-month program created to help socially marginalized communities respond to climate change. Among SELECT’s communities of focus are immigrants in the Toronto area, which claims 17% of the country’s total immigrant population despite having less than 8% of the national population.

Immigrants past and future have directly experienced or will experience some of the worst impacts of global warming. With an average of 22.5 million people displaced by climate- or weather-related events since 2008, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimates that approximately one person every second is forced by natural disaster to leave home and try a new beginning elsewhere. A growing number of these climate refugees will join the growing stream of immigrants to Canada, projected to rise to a whopping 340,000 annually by 2020.

Once in the country, newcomers require a longer-than-average period to find employment. Toronto Employment and Social Services data shows that relative to the overall city rate, newcomers—particularly visible minorities—face unemployment rates that are approximately double the average. Precarious employment and employment in low-wage sectors is also more common among newcomers, despite the fact that 70% of Canadian immigrants are highly educated and skilled.

In accordance with a government immigration plan announced on November 1, Toronto’s immigration experts are calling on companies to step up and help absorb the nearly 170,000 immigrants projected to arrive in the city over the next three years.

As Canada transitions to a 21st century, green economy, SELECT will help newcomers and other socially marginalized communities “select” their future and ensure this transition is socially just. A collaboration between Environmental Defence Canada and SSE, SELECT trains grassroots leaders to help fellow residents to:

  • understand the personal impacts of climate change;
  • identify what actions communities wish to undertake in response; and
  • create dignified work in the transition to an environmentally sustainable world.

Graduates of prior SSE programs include other green economy leaders, including a social justice activist who helps immigrant women turn recyclables into jewelry and other accessories; an environmentalist who, with cutting edge container garden technology, helped start a wave of urban agriculture; an engineer pioneering community-based energy planning; and a university student dreaming of creating jobs and pollinator patches in lower-income neighbourhoods where green spaces are minimal.

Established in London, UK in 1997, SSE is an international social franchise with thousands of fellows across Britain, Australia, Ireland, India, and Canada. In 2012, SSE was established as a project on Tides Canada’s shared platform.

Serving more than 44 million passengers in 2016, Toronto Pearson is Canada’s largest airport and it ranks second in North America in terms of international traffic.. The area around the airport is the second-largest employment zone in Canada, and Toronto Pearson facilitates more than 6 per cent of Ontario’s GDP and directly employs 49,000 people.

Toronto Pearson believes being a good neighbour means balancing operations by engaging with surrounding communities. It strives to have a positive impact by investing in social good and community-building initiatives through its community investment program, the Propeller Project.

The benefits of the collaboration between the SSE Community and Toronto Pearson will be shared both ways. Toronto Pearson employs many experts in environmental sustainability, community engagement, and economic development. Airport staff will enjoy the chance to serve as sounding boards for SELECT student projects, and to share their knowledge and professional expertise, while also developing their coaching and leadership skills with individuals from different backgrounds and personality types.

“For Toronto Pearson, growing sustainably is an umbrella term that consists of a variety of focus areas, but chief among them is our commitment to environmental sustainability and ensuring that the communities we serve grow in step with the airport,” says Alicia Rose, Manager, Community Investment Program, Greater Toronto Airports Authority. “Toronto Pearson, through the Propeller Project, its community investment program, is proud to partner with SSE for the SELECT initiative, which will both contribute to reducing unemployment rates among newcomers and educate the public on the pressing issue of climate change.”

Upon announcing the collaboration, Marjorie Brans, Managing Director, School for Social Entrepreneurs Ontario said: “Our collaboration with Pearson will support cutting edge advances in social justice. We can’t wait to leverage the world-class technical expertise of Toronto Pearson, one of the greenest airport facilities in the world. In addition to providing SELECT support to expand its reach, the engagement of Pearson staff will ensure our students can pursue economic and environmental opportunities that are aligned with the evolving needs of the second largest employment zone in Canada.”