Two wooden bikes, 34 stops and more than 8,750 kilometres: all for green jobs across Canada.
Those are the tools and goals of brothers Zac Wagman and Nick Wagman, who made a stop in Williams Lake this week on their journey from Victoria to St. John’s, N.B. — all while riding bicycles made from wood.
The Wagmans work for Project Learning Tree Canada and run a funding program called Green Jobs in Green Spaces helping place youth aged 15-30 in outdoor jobs across Canada in fields such as ecosystem and wildlife management, forest management, Indigenous forest-based program, recreation and interpretation, conservation and research, education and jobs with provincial and territorial parks.
Zac told the Tribune Green Jobs in Green Spaces provides 50 per cent wage match to employers to help them hire more youth to work in the outdoors, which is paying off directly in Williams Lake at both the UBC Alex Fraser Research Forest and with the Invasive Species Council of BC, who will hire summer students partly thanks to the funds.
“We really want to elevate the outdoor opportunities that exist for youth,” Zac said. “And that’s the whole idea of this Green Ride for Green Jobs: we’re riding these bikes to meet with youth working in the outdoors from coast to coast. We hope by telling these stories of youth we can encourage others to pursue these career pathways.”
The Wagmans began their cross-country journey in Victoria on May 13 and hope to arrive in St. John’s, N.B. by the end of September.
The bikes they are riding were made by Picolo Vélo out of Montreal, Que.: the first company in Canada to develop and manufacture a high-performance wooden bike.
During their stop in Williams Lake on Monday the pair met with summer students Sky Jarvis and Candy Lo from the UBC Alex Fraser Research Forest and with Invasive Species Council of BC executive director Gail Wallin of Williams Lake for a tour of the research forest at Gavin Lake.
“We’re hoping to put in about 80 to 100 kilometres a day on the bikes,” Zac said.
From Williams Lake, the Wagmans were travelling north Prince George, then east to Edmonton, to Saskataoon, to Winnipeg and to Thunder Bay.
Stephanie Ewen, manager of the UBC Alex Fraser Research Forest in Williams Lake, said they’re thrilled to have some extra funding, which has allowed them to have an extra summer student on hand, while also working at the same time with a grad student.
“I appreciate it,” said Jarvis. “It’s allowed me and other young people to break into jobs and get experience that wouldn’t otherwise be available. And green jobs are important, especially with the climate crisis we are facing.”
Last year, Green Jobs in Green Spaces provided extra funding to help provide 750 students jobs.
This year, they are on track to place roughly 1,000 students, Zac said.
And as for the long journey ahead, Zac and Nick said it’s something they’ve always wanted to do.
“It’s pretty neat being able to do this,” Zac said.
“Not only is it something I’ve wanted to do but it serves a prupose that can make a change in people’s lives — especially at a time when yout hare spending more and more time indoors.”
Project Learning Tree Canada and Green Jobs for Green Spaces has a website with more information available at www.mygreenjob.ca.
You can also follow the brothers in their journey on Twitter @PLT_Canada.