Youth Employment and the Green Economy

The Growing Green Economy

A green economy is one in which forces of economic growth are aligned with economic sustainability and responsibility. Green jobs, which are aligned with the ultimate end of a green economy, are poised at current growth rates to grow by 10 million jobs in the United States over the coming years. To ensure that young people can take advantage of this generational opportunity, the National Youth Employment Coalition is partnering with several national agencies to craft policies, principles and values of how this burgeoning economy will shape landscapes, localities and the lives of young people around the country.

Green Economy Chart

The green economy today is worth an estimated $4 trillion and is rapidly expanding. Building our economy on the principles of sustainability, justice and climate resiliency must have forward thinking designs that unlock the potential of youth and their communities.

Many opportunity youth live in communities that will be heavily affected by climate change, but among the least likely to cope with it. Strong civic involvement means centering youth voice among decision-making, crafting solutions alongside communities and working together to ensure that environmental and economic justice occur for and by our communities.  

From telecommunications, construction, and utilities, youth infrastructure jobs must go beyond “just hard hats.” An equitable green workforce creates opportunity for youth from engineering to construction to education and business. Centering youth ensures we are cultivating a new generation of community builders, workers, and leaders.

Our 21st century energy grid must be responsive, resilient and efficient for the changing demands of our communities. Governments, energy companies, and community-based organizations must work together to create a future in which new and flexible career pathways for youth are central to our goal of a carbon-reduced and clean future. 

Transportation remains one of the most vital opportunities for upward mobility. Connecting our rural, suburban and urban communities to each other unlocks social capital, business opportunities and prosperity, ultimately breaking down silos and resource mismanagement.

Our Values and Principles

  • Targeting Resources to Where They Are Needed

    • Opportunity youth, low-income youth and young adults of color must be a priority.
    • Ensure that youth and young adults that have been impacted by the criminal justice system are not obstructed from receiving training and employment.
    • Invest in high-need communities. Build on research and lessons learned from comprehensive, community-wide approaches, such as Youth Opportunity Grants, to create a funding stream for high-need urban and rural communities to implement innovative community based and effective national strategies that connect young people
  • Ensuring Race and Gender Equity

    • Policy investments must include an explicit focus on race and gender.
    • Policies focusing on sustainable land development, such as upgrading and redesigning housing stock, should center on growing and retaining wealth in historically land-oppressed communities (e.g. Black and Native American, rural, etc. groups)
  • Partnering with Young People

    • Recognize youth as assets and center their voices. Investing in young people begins by embracing their innate assets, supporting their empowerment, and listening to their experiences so we understand what they need. 
  • Providing Access to Careers, Not Just Hard Hats

    • Build large-scale employment and postsecondary pathways to good jobs and careers in the green economy that reach young people with systemic and structural barriers to employment and living in high-poverty communities.


  • September 15th 2021: The Green Economy Needs Subsidized Jobs
    • More than 9 in 10 Americans (93 percent) favor a national initiative that creates paid work and job training opportunities as part of recovery efforts. This policy solution—a federal investment in public service, or subsidized employment—is the only workforce intervention proven to put large numbers of unemployed people to work rapidly and put income in the pockets of those who need it most. Paired with training, worker supports, and pathways to growing quality jobs within emerging green and climate sectors, these investments can have transformational impacts on workers, communities, and the environment.


Join the Conversation!

To better understand how young people can succeed in the green economy, NYEC has been organizing working groups with partners. If you’re interested in joining the conversation, let us know!

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