Climate Corps – a fellowship program providing professional development opportunities for U.S. workers through implementation of environmental projects with local governments, nonprofits, and businesses – is well-poised to meet President Biden’s ambitious climate and economic recovery goals.
“The program was born out of the Great Recession over a decade ago to address the looming climate crisis and economic recovery. As an inroad to high paying green careers, it has the potential to create a more equitable workforce. It’s more relevant now than ever,” said Cyane Dandridge, Executive Director of SEI (the nonprofit that runs the Climate Corps program).
Emerging professionals are recruited by Climate Corps for placement in 10-month paid fellowships, where they gain real-world skills in environmental leadership by advancing sustainability initiatives within organizations. Since 2010, Climate Corps has placed 800 fellows to lead thousands of environmental projects – from zero waste and clean energy to climate action planning and green transportation.
“The whole workforce development program SEI created essentially opened up opportunities. Without that, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in,” said David Liebman, former Climate Corps fellow and Sustainability and Energy Programs Manager at Santa Rosa Junior College.
“I view SEI’s Climate Corps model as a proven approach to preparing emerging professionals for real, meaningful jobs while bringing true value to their host organization and contributing to our collective progress towards addressing this climate crisis,” said Debbie Raphael, Director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment and past Climate Corps partner.
Every year, Climate Corps fellows prevent greenhouse gas emissions equal to 3,000+ cars taken off the road for one year, save enough water to serve over one million homes, and divert over 30 million pounds of waste.
In an Executive Order announced one week after inauguration, President Biden called for the establishment of a Civilian Climate Corps to simultaneously conserve and restore natural resources, address climate change, create high-paying jobs, and achieve “justice for communities who have been subjected to environmental harm.”
Similar programs designed to address both workforce and climate goals have been set forth by some states. In September, California’s Gov. Newsom announced the creation of the California Climate Action Corps with a focus on edible food recovery and wildfire protection. Last fall, New York’s Gov. Cuomo announced his plan for the Career Pathway Training Partnerships program to prepare New Yorkers for the growing number of job opportunities in the clean energy industry, training workers from the state’s most underserved and low-income populations.
SEI’s Climate Corps is forging ahead amidst the global pandemic and serving record numbers of fellows and partners. The program has seen a 600% increase in fellowship applications in the last year and is anticipating a significant increase in demand for fellows as cities, states, and organizations across the U.S. strive to achieve ambitious climate goals. The pre-existing, time-tested model could be easily adopted into the new administration’s plan for a Civilian Climate Corps.