Future of Work

Students Want to Know More About Careers in Climate Change—Now

By Alyson Klein — January 19, 2023 2 min read
Doodles related to green jobs, climate change.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Students who are watching increasingly dangerous and more frequent storms batter cities and seeing families fleeing wildfires want more information on how climate change might shape their career choices.

But workforce education has been slow to provide answers, or revamp training programs, to prepare students for jobs that help mitigate the effects of climate change, educators and experts say.

In fact, 30 percent of the roughly 1,000 teenagers surveyed by the EdWeek Research Center last fall said they wanted to learn more about job opportunities related to sustainability and climate change. But few are hearing about those kinds of careers in school: 22 percent of teachers say they talk to students about those kinds of career opportunities.

One high-schooler looking for a career in helping to mitigate climate change is Mackenzie Harsell, a junior at Hopewell Valley Central High School in New Jersey, who makes “eco-bricks” out of recycled plastic that can serve as reusable building blocks in her spare time. She is interested in a career in applied sustainability, an idea sparked by a college pamphlet she received in the mail.

In that job, “I would help businesses be more sustainable, through their emissions, their packaging, their practices, things like that,” Mackenzie said in an interview. “To me, that sounds really interesting. Because I get to directly change and teach people how they can do better on a smaller scale, which then spreads to end up being a larger scale.”

Many students, though, say that they aren’t having conversations at school about careers that help fight or deal with the impact of climate change, at least not to the extent they would like. Some blame a lack of information in general, not their teachers.

“Teachers have taught me to how to think critically” about the environment, said Josh Layne, a senior at Orange High School in Lewis Center, Ohio. “I don’t think they have the resources to teach me to find a career as well.”

Is a Civilian Climate Corps the answer?

Part of the solution could come from a proposal in Washington for a Civilian Climate Corps, modeled on the conservation corps of the 1930s. The idea has been floated by Democrats in Congress, and the Biden administration even put out an executive order aimed at getting the corps started. But, so far, Congress hasn’t passed the legislation needed to officially create it.

There’s significant public interest in the program, according to a recent poll by Data for Progress, a progressive think tank and polling firm. Sixty-three percent of likely voters support the idea, compared with just 24 percent who oppose it.

Democrats are far more likely to approve of the program, according to the poll, with an overwhelming 83 percent in favor of it, compared with 48 percent of independent voters, and about a quarter of Republicans.

The climate corps could help conserve public lands, increase reforestation, protect biodiversity, smooth the transition to renewable energy sources, and help communities recover from hurricanes and other weather-related disasters, according to its advocates. The program would also help establish career pathways for workers interested in pursuing careers created to help mitigate climate change. Those working in the corps would receive a living wage and educational benefits, under a bill introduced by Sen. Edward Markey in 2021.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Academic Integrity in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
As AI writing tools rapidly evolve, learn how to set standards and expectations for your students on their use.
Content provided by Turnitin
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
The Science of Reading: Tools to Build Reading Proficiency
The Science of Reading has taken education by storm. Learn how Dr. Miranda Blount transformed literacy instruction in her state.
Content provided by hand2mind

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Future of Work The Climate Is Changing. Career Education Is Not. That's a Problem
Teens are increasingly interested in learning about how climate change will impact the future of work.
6 min read
Vehicles move down Altamont Pass Road with wind turbines in the background in Livermore, Calif., Aug. 10, 2022.
Vehicles move down Altamont Pass Road with wind turbines in the background in Livermore, Calif., Aug. 10, 2022.
Godofredo A. Vásquez/AP Photo
Future of Work How to Build Girls' Interest and Confidence in STEM Learning
Too often, girls aren’t introduced to STEM career opportunities until high school, but that could be too late.
2 min read
Black girl wearing face mask and protective glasses using microscope in laboratory
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Future of Work Opinion 6 Reasons Why We Should See Students as Changemakers
The future is very delicate. In this blog, Michael Fullan lays out 6 reasons why students should be seen as the changemakers to improve it.
Michael Fullan
8 min read
Fullan
Shutterstock
Future of Work The Key to Getting Girls Interested in STEM Could Be Their Teacher
A majority of women surveyed said that a teacher had the greatest influence in their decision to pursue a career in technology.
5 min read
Ninth graders Angela Alexy, Zoe Doyle, and Sarah Retallick use Instamorph to mold a custom phone cord holder at Pennsbury High School in Falls Township, Pa., on March 19, 2018. Bucks County schools are involving girls in STEM programs.
Ninth graders mold a custom phone cord holder in a STEM program at Pennsbury High School in Falls Township, Pa. Women’s interest in computer science mostly starts in high school, according to the Girls Who Code/Logitech report.
David Garrett/Bucks County Courier Times via AP