Equitable Adaptation Legal & Policy Toolkit

Youth Engagement

As the economy shifts toward cleaner, greener, and more resilient jobs, the demand for well-trained people with the ability to work in the sector will continue to grow.See footnote 1 Youth training and employment programs are an excellent way to begin education and job-skill training in sector-specific jobs early, thereby better ensuring successful careers. These types of programs often focus on hands-on training that students can participate in over the summer.

As a whole, “effective workforce development strategies for disadvantaged populations of young adults are needed to overcome unemployment and limited advancement opportunities for less-skilled workers in the United States.”See footnote 2 The earlier youth are involved in resilient, clean energy jobs, the more likely they will benefit from expected growth in these sectors, and the less likely they are to be unemployed in the future.

And a greener economy with lower rates of unemployment is (1) better able to recover quickly from a shock; (2) better able to withstand a shock; and (3) in some instances, better able to avoid a shock altogether.

Two women sit behind a table with a white table cloth at a college fair in a school gymnasium. They have a banner behind them that says, "Providing stormwater solutions through local partnerships and community development." They are talking with a high school aged boy and girl who stand on the other side of the table. There are similar conversations going on at other tables in the background.
The Prince George's County Clean Water Partnership engages with students at a college and career fair at Parkdale High School in Maryland. (Credit: The PGCo Clean Water Partnership)

Considerations of Youth Engagement Programs for Economic Resilience


  • Investments in youth engagement programs typically come from the government or nonprofits.
  • Having paid internships for students over the summer can help encourage students in frontline communities to participate in youth engagement programs.
  • Established summer programs that already have funding can consider integrating environmental education into their summer curriculum without much additional cost.


  • Youth engagement programs — both educational and employment — can focus on environmental projects, such as stormwater management, solar energy installment, and environmental literacy.


  • Youth engagement programs can focus on educating and employing students from frontline communities.
  • Environmental education, when it begins early, is shown to promote a “sense of place and connection through community involvement.”See footnote 3 


  • Youth programs can solicit local businesses to provide funding and employment opportunities for at-risk youth in disadvantaged communities.
  • Youth engagement programs can be run through nonprofit organizations, private businesses, or school systems.


  • Local governments and/or education boards could consider implementing environmental literacy and education into required curriculum materials.
  • Public-private partnership agreements or contracts between local businesses, the public-school system, or other parties involved in youth engagement can stipulate the extent to which students will be learning about environmental issues, as well as any hands-on training that may result in completed products (like solar panels, stormwater management systems, etc.).

Lessons Learned

  • Successful youth engagement programs are often part of a larger umbrella organization or program. These types of organizations often have established funding sources. In addition, training programs that have already been created and proven successful can be slightly altered to gear towards younger students.
  • Established organizations — such as non-profits, local businesses, public school systems, and local higher education facilities — can implement youth engagement programs using existing partnerships. These parties should work together with the local community to ensure that students receive meaningful education and experience regarding climate change, environmental issues, and hands-on job training.
  • One way to specifically encourage the participation of frontline community youth is through offering paid summer internships in the areas of environmental stewardship, stormwater management, etc. By providing a chance for students to make money and learn about the environment at the same time, youth will be more inclined to participate.
  • Youth outreach and education in environmental areas have both been shown to improve academic achievement, encourage environmental stewardship, deepen personal development and wellbeing, and strengthen communities overall.[4] Hands-on learning projects regarding things like stormwater management can not only enhance a student’s ties to their own community but also promote the environmental health of the community itself. Youth engagement programs should incorporate these types of hands-on projects in their curriculum.
  • There are countless online resources dedicated to educating younger populations on the effects of climate change, environmental and renewable technologies, etc. Established education programs can integrate this education and knowledge into the curriculum at little to no extra cost.



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