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Widening the Road to Green Building Careers

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Mentorships, scholarships and training are key

On Sept. 20, the Biden administration launched a new workforce training initiative, the American Climate Corps, to give more young people access to the skills they’ll need for careers in clean energy and climate resilience. Intended to “mobilize a new, diverse generation of more than 20,000 Americans,” the initiative seeks to both boost the speed of environmental conservation and use of energy-efficient technologies in the United States and to expand the pathways to well-paying jobs for the next generation.

Multiple sources in recent years have reported the increase in demand for workers to fill sustainable building roles. For example, a 2023 energy efficiency jobs report by E4TheFuture and E2 shared that nearly 2.2 million U.S. workers are currently employed in the energy efficiency field, 54% of whom work in construction.

Related: Breaking into the Construction Industry

Education for workforce opportunities

What can the industry do to join this mobilization and bring emerging professionals into the field? Growing the workforce involves many actions with which individual industry professionals can help, through creating opportunities at their own organizations, exploring opportunities for mentorship, or advocating for better access to industry credentials.

These credentials may come through formal university or trade school education, skill-building in apprenticeships, on-the-job training or online learning. Flexible online course structures, targeted credentials or badges that can be built upon over time can make it easier for professionals—both emerging and experienced—to increase their knowledge and adapt to changing industry needs. Micro-credentials, for example, like the green builder and building data analytics badges from the U.S. Green Building Council, represent proficiency in distinct knowledge areas.

Related: Women in Green Construction

Equitable access to career training

Trade associations and industry organizations can help smooth the path for all young people to access the education opportunities they need. For instance, the American Institute of Architects recently collated a list of scholarships and career resources for students from underrepresented groups, and the National Association of Women in Construction offers $100,000 in scholarships each year to those looking to enter the profession.

To scale up the transformation of our buildings and communities into more sustainable, equitable and resilient places to live, we need more young people to enter the field. Encouraging emerging professionals to join this movement through mentorship, equitable access, plentiful training opportunities and diverse ways for people to gain and demonstrate knowledge, we can create a thriving green economy.

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Author

  • Heather Benjamin

    Heather Benjamin is associate director of editorial content for USGBC and also manages USGBC+, the digital member magazine. She has spent the past 15 years in the field of publishing, editing, writing, and content strategy through both print and digital communications.

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