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 May 2009 - Nr. 5

(CALGARY, AB) - A national contest for kids sparked by an urgent need to attract young people to the Earth sciences has announced its national and regional winners and given away thousands of dollars in prize money.
Dozens of school classrooms and hundreds of students participated in the WHERE Challenge - a contest launched last October that asked Canadian students aged 10 - 14 years to discover non-renewable Earth resources found in everyday objects.

The Challenge attracted entries from across Canada that included analyses of household items ranging from pencils and light bulbs to sports equipment and make-up. Three national winners, five school winners and 33 regional winners were announced on Earth Day, April 22 and took home more than $16-thousand in prize money. Contest organizers say they're heartened by the response, as the goal was to raise awareness among students about Earth sciences and encourage kids to pursue the science as a career.

"The health of our sector depends upon young people entering the industry," said John Boyd, Canadian chair of International Year of Planet Earth. "If we can turn students on to Earth science at an early age, we hope to create the next generation of geologists and geo-physicists."

Despite the current economic downturn, experts say a crippling labour crunch is looming for the Earth sciences sector. According to several recently released forecasts by organizations like the Petroleum Human Resources Council and the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences (CFES), a wave of expected retirements and declining student enrolments means a critical gap could start emerging within the next few years.

"We're talking about being short tens of thousands of Earth scientists by 2015," said Ian Young, past president of the CFES. "We're expecting the needs of the environmental sector alone to grow by more than 30 percent over the next five years."

Oil & gas, mining, environmental & geotechnical, government and academia are all predicted to face serious challenges in attracting qualified Earth scientists. Rising commodity demands, advances in technology and emerging issues such as the need for new discoveries, sustainable resource development and an increased focus on environmental geoscience - all have the country facing an alarming shortfall of talent over the next five to 10 years.

"Even with the recession, we are still facing serious shortages," said Young. "It's absolutely essential that we develop new strategies to recruit and train people from every possible demographic."

The WHERE Challenge is designed to capture the interest of that youngest demographic. The Challenge is sponsored by EnCana Corporation and Teck and in celebration of the International Year of Planet Earth. All winning entries of this year's WHERE Challenge can be seen on the contest website at Details on next year's Challenge will be released later this spring.


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