Check out the 12 Eco-Career Forecasts below from our colleague at Boston-based Green Economy (firstname.lastname@example.org). Expect more information about environmental, conservation, sustainability and climate resilience career trends at our 2017 conference. Find Kevin Doyle presenting in three sessions here.
#1: Water Look for strong growth in jobs throughout the water, wastewater, watershed protection, and stormwater management industry. Qualified water industry workers at all professional and occupational levels are expected to be in demand, even before consideration of possible federal infrastructure investments proposed by the new President during the campaign.
#2: Clean energy Even with the fossil fuel-friendly energy policies expected from the incoming Trump Administration, there will be continued growth in the clean energy (solar, wind, storage, etc.) and energy efficiency industries. Falling prices and other market forces – in combination with effective policies in many states – are driving consistent expansion. Clean energy and energy efficiency employment nationwide already exceeds 2.5 million jobs, and counting.
#3: Retirements Expect a significant increase in the number of retirements at local, state and federal government environmental protection and conservation agencies. Many agencies have a sizable number of employees who are (or soon will be) eligible for retirement. Although these retirements will be met by some modest government hiring increases, many public sector jobs will be replaced by private contractors, and some will not be replaced at all.
#4: Climate adaptation Coastal communities, especially, will begin to actually implement aspects of their climate change adaptation plans aimed at preparing for storm surges and other coastal hazards. Unfortunately, sea walls and other shoreline hardening may continue to be preferred over natural (green infrastructure) plans, generating more construction jobs than ecological ones. Activist pressure in support of local green infrastructure policies and ordinances can make a difference here.
#5: Food systems Student and job-seeker interest in urban food systems and alternative agriculture is very high, and college/university programs are springing up to serve student demand. It’s hard, however, to see how actual job numbers will match this high interest. We will track this closely in 2017.
#6 Big data With the rise of big data analysis possibilities for environmental protection purposes (and the increase in relatively inexpensive data gathering technologies) we’re predicting a shortage of qualified big data analysts with an environmental focus. Those with geographic information systems skills, coupled with outstanding general IT qualifications, will be particularly well positioned.
#7 Permitting A long standing equation shows that increases in construction for buildings and infrastructure (expected in 2017) are coupled with increases in work related to environmental assessments and permitting. Expect this to hold true again next year. Certainly one of the best bets for where eco-jobs will be.
#8: Facilities management Look for more and more corporate, academic and municipal sustainability assignments to be incorporated into the job descriptions of existing facilities management and/or Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) staff. Community colleges and job training organizations may be called on for “green up” training of existing personnel. We expect desired qualifications for sustainability positions to become even more sector-specific than they are now.
#9: Insufficient funding Most state government environmental, conservation, and parks/recreation agencies in the USA will (once again) be asked to perform their duties with budgets that fall far short of the actual need. The maintenance backlog will continue to grow.
#10: Activism Rapid changes in the political, demographic, financial and technological landscape require new approaches to campaign organizing, membership development and fundraising. Nonprofit environmental managers/professionals with proven, recent successes that combine mastery of social marketing and social media strategies with old-school approaches, will be in high demand.
#11: Financing Demand is already strong for professionals who can craft innovate public/private partnerships and other creative financing arrangements to pay for environmental improvements. This demand will increase in the face of continued budget constraints and uncertainty at the federal level. Financing expensive water and stormwater management infrastructure improvements is one example of a common challenge in need of innovation.
#12: Summary The nation has never needed a talented and passionate environmental professional workforce more than it does in 2017. For those already employed, we will need all of your energy and creativity. For students and job seekers, best of luck to you. I’m grateful that a new generation is arriving to take on this critical work.