A Green Career Pathways Framework: Postsecondary and Employment Success for Low-Income, Disconnected Youth

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July 27, 2011
By: Terry Grobe, Kate O'Sullivan, Sally T. Prouty, with Sarah White

This paper explores the extent to which this emerging green economy can offer a pathway out of poverty for low-income young people, many of whom have disengaged from school and are struggling to find a way into the economic mainstream. These disconnected youth -- some six million strong -- represent an untapped resource. Despite the fact that they have experienced difficulties in their personal lives or communities and may not have completed high school, many seek a second chance, returning to programs such as Service and Conservation Corps or other education and work initiatives in their local communities.

Given the right supports, these young people can be valuable assets for new green industries seeking to grow a skilled workforce and to the communities in which they reside. Further, youth involved in Corps and other work and service oriented programs can learn and practice skills that give them a "leg up" in terms of entering green industries or providing environmental or conservation assistance to a range of local institutions.

What these young people need to fulfill their promise and meet their life goals is an effective on-ramp to emerging green pathways. This paper offers guidance to youth programs, and those who work with and support those programs, about how to learn more about and access industry-driven green credentialing and career pathways development work within local communities or regions. It then discusses how, with this knowledge in hand, youth programs can work with employers and postsecondary partners to build on-ramps to postsecondary technical training programs and entry to green careers. The paper offers a multi-step Framework that outlines strategies for connecting to career pathway efforts and delineates a three-phase model design to inform the construction of on-ramp programming.

The Corps Network and several principal partners -- including COWS, Green For All, The Academy for Educational Development, Workforce Strategy Center and Living Cities -- guided the development of the paper with additional support from numerous stakeholders.