By James Thordarson, Sr. Coordinator, Forest Education at SFI

While many in the sector know the diversity of forest-focused career opportunities available, it can be difficult to find age-appropriate and scientifically sound programs for students considering pursuing a green career pathway. To support youth in this path, Project Learning Tree (PLT) Canada offers a Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) certification for high school students interested in pursuing a career in the forest sector.

SHSM is an Ontario Ministry of Education approved program that gives students a chance to gain credits toward their high school diploma and focus their learning on a career path at the same time. PLT Canada’s Diverse Perspectives in Sustainable Natural Resource Management SHSM certification is a self-paced, on-demand 2-hour online course focused on developing transferable decision-making skills using a forest management plan as the backdrop . The certification requires students to develop a sustainable management plan, – that like any successful sustainability work -must balance the social, economic, and environmental interests of the student’s community. The engaging course, mixes videos and virtual interviews that make a direct connection for students and teachers to real-life career options.

“This course makes the natural world accessible for all kinds of students who might not have a chance to experience the outdoors. The course videos help students get a better understanding of what a career in forest and natural resources management actually looks like,” says Chris Drummond, a former Ottawa-based high school teacher and PLT curriculum advisor, involved in the development of the PLT Canada SHSM course.

The course’s focus on decision-making skills also means it can help students succeed in other areas of academic and work life. The course teaches three broad approaches to making decisions using forests as the lens: gaining strategies for perspective seeking; learning to make sustainable decisions; and feeling confident making a forest management plan.

The SHSM course enables students to build a foundation of sector-focused knowledge and skills before graduating and entering apprenticeship training, college, university, or an entry-level position in the workplace. “It’s also a great tool to learn about climate change, carbon capture and other key issues students will face if they pursue a career in sustainability,” says Drummond.

PLT Canada’s Certification can also be used in other relevant SHSM programs, like Environment, or even outside of SHSMs where educators want to give students tools to become better decisionmakers. The course aligns with theOntario Curriculum, which in part reflects the collaborative mindset behind its development and delivery. The SHSM course was developed by PLT Canada and is offered in partnership with the Beanstalk Academy—a high-quality SHSM provider.

Teachers are encouraged to reach out to the Beanstalk Academy to learn more about enrolling their students in SHSM.

“This SHSM course is something I wish my students had access to at the start of my career. It’s a great way to complement the skills of a teacher with experience in natural resources and it also offers an avenue for teachers who are new to the sector,” says Drummond.

The success of the PLT Canada Specialist High Skills Major certification program bodes well for the future of sustainable natural resource management. By offering students diverse perspectives, interdisciplinary learning experiences, hands-on opportunities, and leadership development, the certification is helping them tackle complex sustainability challenges with confidence and creativity.

PLT Canada is grateful to collaborate with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to promote SHSM certification.

Interested in learning more?
Watch a video summary of the course, visit PLT Canada’s career skills certification page, and connect with me to learn more!


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