Preparing our Youth for the Clean Energy Jobs of the Future

Growing up on a ranch in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, my parents taught me the importance of hard work, getting an education, and protecting the natural resources that were the source of our livelihood.  Because of their encouragement, my brothers and sisters and I– all eight of us - became first-generation college graduates.

Today, our youth face high unemployment rates, rising health risks such as childhood obesity, and less time spent in the great outdoors. The unemployment crisis facing today’s youth is particularly acute in the African-American and Hispanic communities. 

This afternoon, I spoke at the National Capitol Forum on Hispanic Higher Education, hosted by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), about preparing our nation’s youth – particularly Hispanic youth - for the clean energy jobs of the future. 

The Department of the Interior provides thousands of jobs protecting, conserving and restoring our nation’s natural resources and building a new foundation for the clean energy economy of tomorrow. And, over the next seven years, 40% of our Interior’s workforce will retire. This presents us with both a challenge and an opportunity.  As youth face unprecedented unemployment rates, young Americans are in a unique position to find work in America’s Great Outdoors. The Department of Interior is leading the charge, putting thousands of young people to work, especially during the summer, when they need jobs the most.

But we need to do more than just provide young people with a job; we need to provide them with a career path. Under President Obama’s leadership, building the new clean energy economy will help provide these careers while making America more competitive in the global marketplace. Working with HACU member institutions, we are developing a Conservation Curriculum for colleges and universities that will build a pathway to green careers with a special emphasis on young Latinos and Latinas.

Partnerships like this one will help diversity the workforce for green agencies like Interior, but will also help diversity the clean energy workforce of the future. 

Ken Salazar is Secretary of the Interior

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