Fighting for Our Future: Creating Youth Opportunities in the Green Collar Economy

Authors: Vien Truong | Senior Associate

Green For All is extending the focus of the Green Pathways Out of PovertyCommunity of Practice to include issues facing at-risk and disconnected youth. Our country's youth face some steep challenges. The numbers on education and labor give us sobering news on the future of our country. For every ten students who enter 9th grade:

  • Seven will graduate high school
  • Four will enter college
  • Only two will complete an associate's degree or higher

Many schools in low-income communities are graduating less than 50% of their students. In Oakland, where I grew up and currently live, some schools are graduating fewer than 25% of their students. On the bright side, the U.S. economy will produce 15.6 million new jobs from 2006 to 2016. And the growth in green jobs has been one of the few good news stories in our recovering economy.

Most of these new jobs will require some education or training beyond high school, but less than a college degree. Jobs requiring post-secondary credentials are growing twice as fast as jobs that do not. This means that many of our youth do not and will not qualify for the new jobs being created.

Youth must begin building work skills towards a career now or they can be stuck in dead-end jobs as adults. There are great organizations that are doing the work to prepare youth to take advantage of these opportunities. These include Austin's American YouthWorks, Denver's Mile High Youth Corps, and Berkeley's Rising Sun Energy Center. Check out this great video about the Mile High Youth Corps.

We must work to create pathways towards well-paying careers for youth, especially for those who are "at risk" or are not in school or working. We must prepare youth for well-paying jobs in high growth sectors – jobs that will be available when they graduate from training and education programs. As the country's green economy grows, so will the opportunities for the next generation. But unless pathways to these opportunities are built, those who need them the most will be left out. The extended focus of our Green Pathways Out of Poverty Community of Practice will do just that - identify the obstacles and opportunities for green career pathways out of poverty for at-risk or disconnected youth.

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