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

Economic

  • 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.

Environmental

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

Social/Equity

  • 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 

Administrative

  • 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.

Legal

  • 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.

 

Related Resources

 
Prince George's County, Maryland Clean Water Partnership

The Clean Water Partnership was established in 2014 between Prince George’s County and a private company, Corvias, to retrofit 2,000 acres to better facilitate more resilient stormwater management. A significant component of the CWP — which has been extended 30 more years and to cover 4,000 more acres — is educating the community on resilient infrastructure and environmental literacy. Much of this engagement and education centers on the youth of Prince George’s County. Several programs, including the Junior Achievement Finance Park and End Time Harvest Ministries, have established training, internship, and educational programs for students throughout the school district, ensuring that young people throughout the community become engaged in learning about and participating in the development of resilient, green infrastructure. Since its foundation, CWP has invested over $500,000 in youth and educational programs, with the overall goal of improving environmental literacy and instilling the importance of resiliency. Through these programs, all 8th-grade students within the county are introduced to green stormwater management techniques, and 70 students have gained first-hand experience relating to environmental literacy.

Washington DC Green Zone Environmental Program

The Green Zone Environmental Program (GZEP) is a program run by the District of Columbia’s Department of Energy and Environment that provides young adults aged 14 to 24 with summer careers in clean energy. Every year, over 300 youth and young adults throughout the District — with a focus on recruitment from frontline, under-represented communities — enroll in a six-week training and educational program. The DOEE and GZEP partner with local businesses to expose participants of the Program to both classroom and hands-on training in the areas of stormwater management, solar energy installments, green infrastructure construction, landscaping, and more.

Prince George's County, Maryland - Clean Water Partnership Youth Engagement Program

The Clean Water Partnership (CWP) was established in 2014 between Prince George’s County, Maryland, and a private company, Corvias, to retrofit 2,000 acres to facilitate better, more resilient stormwater management. A significant component of the CWP - which has been extended 30 more years and to 4,000 more acres - is educating the community on resilient infrastructure and environmental literacy. Much of this engagement and education centers around the youth of Prince George’s County. Several programs, including the Junior Achievement Finance Park and End Time Harvest Ministries, have established training, internship, and educational programs for students throughout the school district. These programs help to ensure that young people throughout the community become engaged in learning about and participating in the development of resilient, green infrastructure. Since its foundation, CWP has invested over $500,000 in youth and educational programs, with the overall goal of improving environmental literacy and instilling the importance of resiliency. Through these programs, 8th-grade students within the County are introduced to green stormwater management techniques, and 70 students have gained first-hand experience relating to environmental literacy.

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