by Jane C. Eben-Spiff
The Leaders in Energy 9th annual Green Jobs Forum was held virtually on September 22, 2022. Welcoming both participants and panelists, the Executive Director and President of the organization, Janine Finnell reiterated its vision as a community of leaders who work to scale and accelerate clean energy for a more sustainable future. This article provides a recap of the “Educational Pathways to Green Careers,” Panel 2, at the Forum.
This panel was personally my favorite, especially as I have a keen interest and years of work experience in learning and talent development. The panelists shared key information to enable participants to understand how their current experiences would be transferrable into a Green Job/Career and provided clarity about the educational pathways to jobs for higher education graduates to those with work experience.
“The sky is the limit if you have got a great team” – Moderator, Ben Dueweke
“Possibilities are endless whatever field you come from” – Isabella Ruble
“We need you to transition and to be brave and apply” – Michelle Benavides
“Employers are willing to do more post-hire training” – Daniel Goldsmith
Moderator: Ben Dueweke, Director of Community Partnerships, Walker-Miller Energy Services works in Detroit, Michigan where the company designs and implements energy efficiency programs for utilities and other stakeholders. They recently branched into additional clean energy services including energy storage and improving community access to sustainable transportation options like electric vehicles and charging stations.
Panelists: The diverse panelists were engaging and very experienced with the session topic. They shared important advice on how to get into a green career via the education route both as a recent college graduate, as well as for individuals who want to switch to a career in the sustainability sector.
Daniel Goldsmith, Managing Director and Co-founder, Julius Education which is a workforce development company focused on the needs of green employers. Before starting the company, he worked as a leader at a global education company, helping people navigate jobs in healthcare, technology, and emerging green jobs.
Michelle Benavides is the Executive Director of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP), a leading worldwide organization that provides a platform for collaboration, education, and connection amongst sustainable energy professionals. The connections within ISSP span from emerging professionals to experts in the field of sustainability across all the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It works to create awareness and identify the best ways to collaborate across different sustainability sectors, ensuring that everyone within the network is prepared at least at a foundational level and understands that green jobs are intertwined.
Isabelle Ruble, Ph.D., is the founding member of Clover University and an economist at the U.S Department of Energy. She spent over 20 years as an economist working on energy issues and is passionate about teaching having held educational leadership and teaching roles in the past. Clover University bridges the gap as being the only university that specializes in energy.
Speaking about the curriculum, Isabella explained that the university focuses on graduate education in the fields of data analysis, computational economics, and energy. These courses are multi-disciplinary and enable students who graduate to become job ready after receiving certificates or master of science degrees. All courses are fully certified by the U.S State Council of higher education and are 100% online modules with a low student-faculty ratio enabling better interaction. Each program is also taught full-time or part-time, to make it convenient for working students.
The data-related courses are important because data enables decisions in the sustainable energy sector since companies need to collect data in order to analyze electricity consumption, and emissions to improve operational efficiency within the industry. Another driver around the selection of the curriculum is the feedback from employers who report that graduates are not job-ready upon employment and need training in order to perform in green jobs.
Talent and the Transition into Cleaner Energy
Daniel explained the Demystify, Develop and Place model his organization uses as it builds educational pathways with its programs which run across the US.A. Surveys conducted show that about 90% of people are interested in learning more about Green Careers and less than 5% know are fully aware of the jobs in this sector. The transition has enabled the creation of new policies and laws that have enabled a massive scale of new roles. An example is the Green Building sector which has a need for energy efficiency auditors and technicians. These are high-paying jobs that are hard to automate and therefore require people with the right skill set. These roles may need some certifications but many roles within this sector do not require the traditional four-year degree.
Julius Education supports this as its programs articulate the needs of each emerging job and assist individuals to map their skills and experience into these jobs, thus enabling people to see themselves as a fit for these jobs where they would have ordinarily thought otherwise.
Standardizing Credentials in the Sustainability Sector
Michelle spoke about the relatively new certificates/pathways and advised that as people are transitioning into the sector, different employers and professionals request to understand how each certification translates directly into succeeding in a green job. Therefore, ISSP in partnership with the Green Business Certification Institute offers theCredential in Sustainability Excellence Certificate which allows applicants to show the employer that they have a baseline of understanding about sustainability that can be transferrable into the role separate from a degree path. Emerging professionals are required to have the requisite skills to transition and start a career of impact in sustainability.
Green Education Outreach and Awareness
Michelle shared that as a member of the ISSP, you receive access to a database of experts and professionals including students, this promotes networking and mutual support. ISSP also works closely with educational partners to create awareness and provide access to mentorship.
Dr. Isabelle mentioned that in developing the curriculum at Clover University, a diploma was launched for workers within the renewable energy or efficiency space. This has prepared these professionals to progress in their fields. She advised interested participants to also visit the US Association for Energy Economics (USAEE) website and attend their webinars.
- You can transition into a green career with a credential, even without a science degree
- Network, Network, Network
- Show all transferrable skills on your resume
- Join associations and attend relevant conferences to learn more about the sector
- If you don’t fulfill all criteria of a job, still go ahead and apply!
Jane is an energy professional with over 16 years of working within the sector as a Human Resources Leader in Recruitment, Talent Development, and Learning. Her experience spans management consulting and business advisory to startups. She has built a record of driving innovation and bottom-line impact for companies within the Finance, NGO, Healthcare, Technology, Government, and Consumer sectors. An SDG 16 advocate, she is interested in conflict resolution and policymaking across the world.