For many Gen Z students contemplating their future careers, the answer is clear: addressing the climate crisis. Multiple surveys have found that overwhelming numbers of students and professionals under 25 are pursuing environmental-related degrees and careers.
This shift in career aspirations among the world’s youngest workers is a reflection of the heightened sense of climate awareness among Gen Z and even Gen Alpha. A 2021 Pew Research survey found that among Gen Z individuals, 76 percent of them cite climate change as one of their biggest societal concerns, and 32 percent have participated in at least one major environmental action in the last year.
Seeing the demand for climate action and training among students, universities are matching their interests with initiatives like the University of Southern California’s Sustainability Across the Curriculum program. The program aims to teach students from all disciplines how their majors intersect with sustainability and the environment.
Christopher Schlottmann, the global curriculum coordinator at New York University’s environmental studies program explains to The Guardian that the long-standing perception that environmental careers don’t pay well is also changing. “There’s a general reputation that if you do good for the world, nobody’s going to pay you to do it. I don’t think that’s that accurate,” he says. “If you understand how climate change works, then a bank should actually really want to talk to you because they want to hedge their risk.”
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job opportunities for environmental scientists and “related specialists” will grow by eight percent over the next decade. This transition is expected to be pushed along by the establishment of the proposed Civilian Climate Corps, a federal program which would help young people fight the climate crisis and conserve public lands with training and job placement.
Climate change is a daunting challenge, but climate awareness and determination grows with each generation and this progress demonstrates that the youngest citizens are staking their future on a healthier planet.
This story is part of our ‘Best of 2021’ series highlighting our top solutions from the year. Today we’re featuring business solutions.