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THRIVE thanks guest speakers Julie Wang and Byan Mara

The THRIVE project would like to extend warm gratitude to Julie Wang and Byan Mara for their presentations at the first Thrivability Matters webinar of 2022. The focus of this webinar was the United Nations SDG4 – ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’, and SDG 8 – ‘Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.’ Specifically, Julie Wang presented on creating productive employment for youth, especially in the small business area. Whilst Byan Mara presented on accelerating decent work and growth through conservation.

Julie Wang is an expert digital marketing strategist who helps businesses thrive in the online world. She has a passion for helping young entrepreneurs and works as a mentor with YELL Canada, a not-for-profit program that helps high school students build business skills. Professionally, Julie Wang’s business, Tiny Planet Digital, helps impact-driven organisations build up their online presence.

Kak Byanmura is a Social Impact Senior Manager at Carbon Ethics. She works to improve the livelihoods of coastal communities through conservation. As someone with experience in sustainable tourism and a passion for bringing communities into the heart of climate action, she strives to help us all coexist with nature.

The THRIVE Project – an organization that places humankind on the path towards a more sustainable future – was fortunate to have both Julie Wang and Kak Byanmura as guest presenters for its monthly Webinar. Unlike sustainability, which focuses on conserving the current state of things, thrivability involves changing how we live for the better.

Creating a Business with Empowered Youth

Julie’s presentation focused on ways to empower youth entrepreneurship and increase youth employment – specifically in the small business area. She highlighted how the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in less employment – which was especially prevalent in young demographics.

A huge 97.9% of businesses in Canada are considered small businesses – ranging from 1 to 99 employees. As such, small businesses have a huge capacity to employ young people and help develop towards goals of youth employment. Education institutions unfortunately gear students towards public sector or big business jobs. Many small business owners feel reluctant to hire young students for this and other reasons – they feel these youths are ill-prepared for their workplace. To remedy this, education institutions need to be more active in promoting the idea of small business work and preparing students for these positions.

Students can develop necessary skills through work-integrated learning academic knowledge is only part of this preparation – attitude, communication, professionalism, and ‘soft skills’ are usually considered more important to employers. But these skills can still be developed in the education process. Proper education in this regard can ideally satisfy both the employers and the students’ needs. However, in terms of students’ needs in the workplace, there is much that businesses can do to improve. Only six out of ten young workers agree that they know what is expected in their workplace. They desire a feeling of purpose – that their work is important, and that someone at the workplace encourages their development. These are important for a high employee retention rate which in turn will help to de-stigmatize youth workers.

In her own business, Tiny Planet Digital, Julie has leveraged youth employment programs in order to hire three employees and seven interns under 22 in the last year. Team Building exercises and workshops have brought a lot of morale to the team and helped set them up for further work, addressing any concerns these employees had. As a result, her company was able to double her revenue, as well as a high employee retention rate. This creates a talent pipeline and the reputation of supporting youth employment.

Key takeaways from Julie’s presentation are that small businesses have the power to maintain a more sustainable economic environment. They can help alleviate concerns about hiring youth workers by setting up structure and expectations for these employees while supporting them and providing future opportunities.

Accelerating Decent Work & Economic Growth through Community-Based Conservation

Byanmura’s presentation focused on increasing decent work and economic growth through nature-based solutions. There are many challenges on the path to decent work for individuals; they may include gender, education, and livelihood. Work that undermines the natural resource base is also considered indecent.

Byanmura highlights that globally, we are witnessing job losses of unprecedented magnitude due to COVID-19. As many as 1.6 billion workers, nearly half of the global workforce, are at risk of losing their jobs. The pandemic also risks accelerating climate change. However, these job losses provide opportunities for green economic recovery – to make sure new jobs are decent work and considering the environment. Vital to green economic recovery are nature-based solutions. These are actions that protect, sustainably manage and restore ecosystems – specifically, ecosystems that simultaneously benefit both humans and the environment. As a socio-economic policy, nature-based solutions support decent work whilst also sustaining national capital and assets.

Throughout Byan Mura’s presentation, one thing becomes clear – jobs and the economy are intrinsically tied to biodiversity. It is estimated that half of the world’s gross domestic product is dependent on nature. Green job opportunities include organic farming, sustainable agriculture, and green food manufacturing. The renewable energy sector employed 11.5 million people in 2019, and it could reach 42 million by 2050. Generally, green occupations also pay better than non-green ones. Large scale climate change programs such as ‘the great green wall’ – an African-led project aiming to grow an 8,000km tree barrier to desertification also provide decent jobs and economic security for millions. This is also seen in smaller-scale projects such as reforestation and waste bank development.

Byanmura ended on a strong point – 71 million unemployed youth are currently struggling to find a job. Thankfully, the transition to a green economy will create an estimated 60 million jobs by 2030. It’s not too soon to prepare – research, knowledge enhancement, updating curriculums, and developing skills will make this transition to a green economy smoother.

Following the webinar, guests were invited to participate in an interactive Q&A in which both Julie and Byanmura answered questions from the audience.

You can register for February’s webinar here or find more info here.