May 30, 2024

The UBC Faculty of Forestry is expanding its offering of micro-certificate programs for professionals to meet a growing demand for skills upgrade opportunities offered in a convenient, online classroom setting.

Forestry currently offers 16 non-credit micro-certificates that served around 350 industry professionals from across the globe in the Winter 2023 term alone. The average cost of a micro-certificate is $2,400 CAD, regardless of where the participant is based, and applying is as easy as filling out the online registration form.

Forestry’s micro-certificates are offered twice per year in sessions running from October to December and from February to April. These online programs are mainly asynchronous, meaning that students can engage in online classes and assignments at any point within a scheduled timeframe. Class sizes range from 20 to 30 students, with plenty of opportunities for one-on-one and small-group discussions. In terms of the time commitment, programs total around 60 study hours, including all assignments, program readings and discussions.

In conjunction with the launch of an expanded offering of micro-certificates, we spoke with Assistant Dean of Professional Education and International Collaboration, Jorma Neuvonen, who also oversees professional development, as well as Micro-Certificate Director Dr. Sheri Andrews-Key, who also leads the Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation program.

The Faculty of Forestry’s Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation (CVA) Micro-Certificate is a flexible 8-week online program that provides forest professionals with an understanding of climate science, vulnerability assessments, adaptation development, and how it is applied to management and business case adaptation (video: UBC Forestry/YouTube)

Why is demand growing for your micro-certificates? [Andrews-Key] Working professionals and industry partners made it clear to us that there is growing need in the workforce for additional training and education for employees whose other commitments make it difficult for them to attend traditional certificate, degree or diploma programs. Designed with built-in flexibility, our micro-certificate programs take place online and are delivered at a pace that makes it possible for working professionals to balance studying with their day jobs, family and other commitments. This offering has similar advantages for individuals wanting to upgrade their skills within a sector as well as individuals transitioning from one sector to another.

[Neuvonen] Many organizations are now legally required to ensure that their employees are trained in some of the specializations offered through our micro-certificates. For example, companies may be required to ensure that certain workers receive climate change impact and vulnerability training.

What are some of the benefits of earning a micro-certificate? [Neuvonen] Most working professionals are not necessarily looking for additional degrees or credits. Instead, what they want are skills that can enhance their work or help them specialize in an area. Our micro-certificate graduates additionally benefit from being able to clearly demonstrate that they are proficient in the skills covered in a micro-certificate program.

[Andrews-Key] After completion, program graduates receive a clickable digital badge that they can put on their LinkedIn accounts, enabling prospective employers to scan the program’s skills and competencies.

In a nutshell, what is covered in the programs? [Andrews-Key] Our programs focus on theory and its practical applications. We have developed programs that align with highly in-demand and emerging skills across several sectors.

What is an example of an emerging skill covered? [Andrews-Key] Climate vulnerability and adaptation is an area in the midst of a rapid uptick in interest among professionals and employers, as well as from government regulators. For example, a Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation micro-certificate student who worked on road design and engineering with the Department of Highways in Ontario used the skills they learned through our program to assess the vulnerability of roadways to soil changes during extreme freeze-thaw events, which are increasingly frequent due to climate change. They also applied program learnings to evaluate the increasing variability in precipitation, especially rain fall events, and the adaptations necessary from an engineering and design standpoint to create more resilient infrastructure. Additionally, we recently saw BC Timber Sales create a position for a climate change engineer to address the risks from atmospheric rivers.

Who teaches the micro-certificate programs? [Andrews-Key] UBC faculty, including myself, teach some of the programs. Other programs are taught by experts from both within and outside of UBC, such as Indigenous Lawyer Dr. Bruce McIvor, who teaches Co-Management of Natural Resources. Programs also feature industry guest speakers to extend opportunities to learn from other professionals in the field.

Which programs are the most internationally focused? [Neuvonen] Forest Carbon Management and Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation both fit that definition. Former Forest Carbon Management student Rita Croce, who works with the Brazil-based Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza coffee plantation, shared insights that I believe will help explain what she took away from this program. “I greatly appreciated the international case studies, making the material applicable to internationally-based students like myself,” she said. “The program helped me gain a deeper understanding of how forest carbon projects are developed.”

Which are the most longstanding micro-certificates? The Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation program is our longest running. Launched in 2021, it imparts knowledge that can be applied regardless of the context, location or scale of a project or organization. Our Forest Carbon Management program, launched in fall 2022, is similarly geared to a global learning environment.

Which micro-certificates are gaining a lot of momentum? [Andrews-Key] Currently, our Co-Management of Natural Resources and Forest Health Management programs appeal to foresters who need to upgrade their training in different parts of Canada. A significant number of North Americans are taking this micro-certificate because it focuses on Indigenous engagement, which is such an important part of environmental management.

Who’s signing up for the micro-certificates? [Andrews-Key] We’re getting foresters; urban forestry professionals; urban planners and developers; watershed and sustainable managers; and practitioners building nature-based solutions. The industries they are coming from span across conservation and natural resource management; oil and gas; and mining. The demographic is very diverse, with 60% to 70% of registrants from North America, along with professionals from New Zealand, Iceland, Asia and South America.

Any surprises? [Andrews-Key] While we knew that registrants would predominantly be mid-career professionals, we were surprised to find many early-career registrants and individuals new to a sector who were looking to make a career transition. Some registrants have shared that they wanted to take a program to build on their prior credentials. We also have many registrants who are nearing retirement interested in leveraging program learnings to transition into consulting. Additionally, we have enrolled retirees interested in the continuing education opportunity that our micro-certificates offer.  

What are your future goals for the micro-certificates initiative?

[Andrews-Key] We want to continue to bridge the gap between education provided at the UBC Faculty of Forestry and the workforce. Our goal is to provide robust training for upskilling to help professionals build capacity for themselves in forestry, areas of sustainability and other applicable sectors.

[Neuvonen] Our programs also align with provincial and federal government objectives.

What’s next? [Neuvonen] Fall registration opens in June.

Closing thought: [Neuvonen] This has expanded our learner community within the Faculty of Forestry. It allows us to build on knowledge dissemination and exchange, and increases communication within government, communities and organizations. We are working together, creating programs that serve working professionals and aid in addressing challenging issues facing the workforce in many sectors. It’s also about increasing connections with stakeholders, including the Indigenous communities we serve.

Find out more about the UBC Forestry micro-certificate offerings.

Read about the UBC Faculty of Forestry.

Join a UBC Forestry micro-certificate info session.

Categories

  • Global Capacity Development
  • Issues of Global Relevance
  • Students as Global Citizens
  • UBC as a Global Actor