Student Energy March Events

March 2024 saw Student Energy participation in two events, a small-scale local Net Zero chat in Montreal, and on the world stage of ChangeNOW 2024 in Paris! Here we have some insight from our event attendees on the importance of bringing sustainable energy conversations to as many communities as possible!

Student Energy March Events: Net Zero World Cafe in Montreal and ChangeNOW 2024 in Paris

Last month, Student Energy organized the Net Zero World Café event for all energy-interested members of the McGill University and Greater Montreal communities. Michelle Balderston, Assistant to the Executive Director at Student Energy, oversaw the planning and facilitation of this meet-up as an instance of our Research and Youth Engagement program’s Net Zero in Our Neighbourhood research project which seeks to bring clean energy discussions directly to local communities.

Helen Watts, Executive Director at Student Energy, attended the ChangeNOW 2024 in Paris, France, and participated in a panel covering the Clean Energy Revolution. Helen shares the importance of ensuring youth and community are core considerations of all climate and energy solutions.

In this post, we’ll hear from Michelle and Helen about their experiences and learnings participating in these events!

Net Zero World Café

Michelle shares, “Last month, I had the pleasure of supporting Student Energy’s Net Zero World Café in Montréal. Our goal was to bring together community members across a range of backgrounds and interests to explore the world of net zero across local and national contexts. We succeeded on this point, as we welcomed attendees with expertise spanning engineering, arts, sciences, and beyond, all bringing their unique perspectives and expertise to the conversation. 

Through a roundtable format, we had the opportunity to dig into net zero across three critical sectors — transportation, waste, and buildings — and explore a wide range of challenges and opportunities for driving net-zero progress within Montréal and beyond. From advocating for more net zero-related educational initiatives to conducting clothing swaps, rethinking transportation as communal, or getting involved in public consultations, I was inspired by how much these conversations emphasized the immense potential of climate action at a local level and through community collaboration. 

I’ll also speak on behalf of our attendees to say that we were absolutely privileged to hear from McGill community member Rebecca Kresta, a mechanical engineer currently pursuing a master’s in Public Policy. Rebecca really served to reinforce the connections between local and national-level sustainability initiatives we were trying to emphasize and accentuated the role that all professions and sectors have to play in achieving net zero goals. 

Reflecting on how my knowledge of net zero has grown throughout the planning of and participation in this project, one of my key takeaways is that everyone can contribute to our collective journey towards a more sustainable energy system and net zero future — through actions big and small. Also, community building is so critical! As we wrapped up the night with networking over doughnuts and drinks, it was so heartening to receive such lovely and overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees, emphasizing how important it is to be able to connect with others from within their communities, as these are truly the venues for some of the most meaningful and innovative ideas to take place.”

ChangeNOW 2024

Helen shares, “At the ChangeNOW 2024 Conference, I had the opportunity to participate in a fireside chat during the Clean Energy Revolution session, following a panel with leaders from the Shift Project, Schneider Electric, Sweetch Energy and Okra Solar to discuss community-led clean energy, technology and financial access. I highlighted stories from our Global Youth Energy Outlook, how youth are calling for action from decision-makers and what meaningful partnerships and power sharing with young people looks like in practice. 

Getting ourselves on track to triple renewable energy globally requires a massive jobs boom in the clean energy sector. We will not succeed in a transition that is socially just, economically positive, and community and industry needs-aligned if we do not prioritize these critical five years to support young people ages 18 to 30 to move into the sector.  Research and data developed by youth organizations, industry and intergovernmental organizations point to the reality of a significant and growing gap between young people passionate about energy issues and sectors trying to recruit talent.

Young people are hungry for meaningful jobs where they can access secure livelihoods while making an impact on climate and energy needs, and we have all the tools and knowledge we need to create an enabling environment for accessing jobs. What we still need is a scale-up of resources and forward-thinking policies to create an enabling environment, and we need a willingness to adapt from academia and industry recruitment. Organizations like Student Energy work to fill in the gaps for young people to learn how to develop and communicate their soft skills, market themselves effectively, and navigate an increasingly murky and complex job market. 

I had the opportunity to talk about our experiences at Student Energy to bridge this skills gap through programs like Student Energy Career Training, which provides youth with hands-on energy project experience with partner organizations, including Okra Solar. I also spoke about the ways in which our programs centre community building as a catalyst for empowering youth within the clean energy space, the importance of inclusive and accessible workforce training programs, and meaningful youth inclusion within the energy sector across all forums and decision-making spaces.”

Where would you like to see Student Energy?

Student Energy is active at global stages, attending events, expanding our reach, and growing our network of young energy leaders! It will always remain a priority of ours to bring nuanced, critical, optimistic insight into the energy industry, and to do so with youth skills and opportunities at front of mind.

Here you’ve seen just two quick ways that we practice outreach and community-building both in Canada and abroad; this is something we’re doing year round! Where might we see you next?

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