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How PLT Canada’s mentorship program transformed one Thunder Bay local’s life


November 10, 2020
By PLT Canada

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Etienne Vézina, mentor, and Catherine Langille, mentee. Facetiming as part of their monthly conversations for PLT Canada’s #MyGreenMentor Program. Photo courtesy PLT Canada.

Catherine Langille was unsure about her future plans, but after a few years working as a Project Learning Tree Canada (PLT Canada) Green Jobs youth with the Outland Youth Employment Program (OYEP), she knew she wanted to work in a Green Job.

Mark Kmill, who oversees OYEP’s Eastern Division, encouraged the Thunder Bay, Ont., local to apply to PLT Canada’s new mentorship program.

Aside from having been a Green Jobs youth, Langille had previously also attended PLT Canada webinars and received a PLT Canada scholarship to attend the Canadian Parks Council conference. So, the member of the Seine River First Nation jumped at the chance to participate in more PLT Canada programming.

She was matched with Étienne Vézina, Resolute FP’s manager of forestry and certification. Langille said her mentor made her more aware of the opportunities awaiting her in the forest and conservation sector.

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“I am so happy to be a part of this. The knowledge I have gained will last me a lifetime, and so will the connection with my mentor!” she said.

Photo courtesy PLT Canada.

Vézina supervises forest management and chain of custody at Resolute. This includes certification — 100 per cent of Resolute’s managed woodlands are Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)-certified. Companies that are SFI-certified are committed to responsible forestry practices, protecting water quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat and species at risk.

Vézina said he knew he wanted to work outside, or at least have a hybrid between office and outdoor work.

“I was always as a young boy outside working on my uncle’s land and stuff like that,” he said.

Langille’s questions during their sessions reminded him of some of his experiences and helped shed light on some of his own reflections. She became a source of motivation for him beyond the calls, he said.

“The benefits are for both parties. I think people with less experience are looking to be introduced to the forestry sector in general, and it brings you to think about stuff that you’re not really looking at on a day-to-day basis,” he said. Another benefit is that the program can bring new people into forestry.

Although mentors help guide their mentees, the mentees drive the mentorship relationship. Mentees set goals for themselves and specify topics for each meeting. They engage in self-reflection, seek to improve specific skills and habits, and learn about green career pathways.

“You might have a general idea of what you want to do, but do you really know all the opportunities that are out there?” asked Langille.

Photo courtesy PLT Canada.

The 21-year-old is currently studying Environmental Science and Natural Resources at Fleming College, which she will then take with her into the Biology Conservation program. Then, in her third year she hopes to transfer to Trent University for Biology Conservation.

Langille said the environment is the main reason she’s pursuing a Green Job as a researcher.

“I definitely want to be one of those people who make a difference when I’m older and have the education to do so,” she said. “And it’s also part of who I am. Being Indigenous, living in the bush is natural to me, canoeing is natural to me, studying my surroundings for the safest environment is natural to me.”

She said the mentorship wasn’t work—it was fun. It was something she and Vézina did outside of work hours, when they had spare time.

“It changed my life, and I am happy to have him as a forever connection,” she said. “He gave me the confidence to do the things I didn’t think I could do.”

Vézina said the best part of the experience was seeing Langille evolve over the six-month mentorship.

“Even a small step forward is a great achievement for a mentor to see—the mentee ready to go toward their objective and what we have discussed, that’s really cool,” he said.

#MyGreenMentor connects young people ages 18-30 with Green Jobs professionals. The six-month mentorship program involves meeting up (in person or virtually) two or three hours a month.

PLT Canada is launching its second mentorship cohort in January 2021. Young people (ages 18-30) who are interested in expanding their Green Jobs knowledge, goals and network can apply to become mentees. Forest and conservation professionals who want to inspire the next generation of leaders, recruit employees and gain new perspectives can apply to become mentors.

Learn more about the Green Jobs mentorship program here.