100 hours to climate action skills

Windmills standingin a field

“We all need to be climate action practitioners, whether that’s part of our job or not. As organizations start thinking about their own competency frameworks, climate action is going to be on the list. So how do they develop those skills and abilities to make change?”

Zoë MacLeod makes the statement and asks the question, but she and Royal Roads University, where she’s associate vice-president, Professional and Continuing Studies, also provide the answer.

It’s a new micro-credential program focused on climate action and it’s not aimed at scientists and eco experts — it’s for everyone, from engineers to business leaders to government officials.

Funded by a $177,000 grant from BC’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training, and launching March 28, Climate Action Practitioner — Foundation “explores how climate change is affecting us, what we can do to reduce the impacts, and how we can increase our individual and collective resilience and adaptability,” reads the course description. The course also helps students “develop an understanding of regional climate trends and risks, their implications for human, infrastructure, and natural systems, and the change leadership, financial, and policy approaches that are required to ‘be part of real solutions.’”

“Life-long learning is a great investment in oneself, and micro-credentials are a fantastic way for British Columbians to upgrade their skills and enrich their career paths,” says Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training.

“Climate change impacts all of us, and this course is timely and relevant. It will help British Columbians meet the changing needs of the world we live in, and strengthen a workforce that is ready to adapt and solve big problems,” the minister says.

“In the face of escalating climate impacts and climate change, the workforce also needs to change, and part of that is ensuring that people working in every sector have competencies related to climate action and climate action leadership,” says Prof. Robin Cox of RRU’s Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences and program head for the Master of Arts in Climate Action Leadership. “This micro-credential focuses on those competencies at a foundational level.”

Core competencies for professionals of all types

Those competencies range from an understanding of climate science and climate adaptation to knowledge about transition leadership and change management, Cox says.

These core competencies create the foundation for the micro-credential’s three required core courses — Climate Adaptation Fundamentals, Perspectives of Transition Leadership and Financial Impact of Climate Change — as well as the electives (students choose one) — Natural Asset Management, Introduction to Climate Policy for Climate Adaptation Professionals and Climate Change Perspectives for Project Management.

“We are not producing climate scientists,” she says, “we are helping professionals in multiple sectors understand some of the foundational concepts of how climate change is impacting society and the environment, and then be able to apply that knowledge in effective and evidence-informed ways as leaders and change makers.”

For students who take the course and do consider a career pivot, completion of the Climate Action Practitioner micro-credential can be used as credit in the Master of Arts Climate Action Leadership.

Adaptation and mitigation are key, says Cox, who is also director of Royal Roads’ ResiliencebyDesign Lab.

“We spend an alarming amount of money already on disasters, and that is escalating in the context of climate change” she says. “We need to focus on reducing disaster risks and impacts where we can, and then helping communities and businesses adapt to the impacts we can’t avoid.

“It’s about preparing better and reducing the harms and suffering posed by natural hazards like heat domes, extreme precipitation events, windstorms, droughts and other climate change impacts. This is about building our resilience now and into the future.”

Dealing with the present and preparing for the future by addressing workforce needs is what micro-credentials are all about, says David Porter, a consultant to RRU’s Professional and Continuing Studies and the Resilience by Design Lab who has a long history working in post-secondary education and e-learning across Canada.

“A lot of what happens in the micro-credential space is tied to employability,” he says, “either upskilling people who are already in the workforce, reskilling people who might be marginalized in the workforce or helping people move laterally in the workforce where new opportunities are emergent.

“Anything to do with climate action is timely now,” Porter adds, noting the process of building the climate action competency framework involved consultations with subject matter experts, employers, professional associations, Indigenous groups and government.

“It’s very future-oriented and I think it’s a very enlightened process to undertake,” he says.

“This is overdue. It’s time to get on with this and start thinking seriously about how we don’t just keep mitigating disasters but we begin to adapt so we minimize climate impact risks.”

The people who can make or influence decisions large and small about climate and adaptation, he says, are the ones for whom this micro-credential is built.

What is a micro-credential?

Micro-credentials are designed to provide accessible, flexible and workforce-focused learning for people who don’t have the time or desire to take a full degree program, although some micro-credentials provide credits toward degrees. Micro-credentials can often be stacked to give the student a suite of complementary competencies.

The Climate Action Practitioner — Foundation micro-credential totals 100 hours, or 25 hours per course. Learn more and register.