2017 Environmental Career Forecast from Kevin Doyle, Green Career Advisor

January 13, 2017

Shared with EVST by Ladd Flock, Director of the Career Development Office at FES, on behalf of Kevin Doyle, Green Career Advisor

12-Point 2017 Green Career Forecast

#1: Water Look for strong growth in jobs throughout the water, wastewater, watershed protection, and stormwater management industry. Water industry jobs at all professional and occupational levels are expected to be in demand.
#2: Clean energy Even with the fossil fuel energy policies of the incoming Trump Administration, there will be continued growth in the clean energy (solar, wind, storage, etc.) and energy efficiency industries. Falling prices and other market forces (in combination with effective policies in many states) are driving growth.
#3:  Retirements Expect a significant increase in the number of retirements at local, state and federal government environmental protection and conservation agencies.  Many agencies have a sizable number of employees who are (or soon will be) eligible for retirement. Many of these jobs will be replaced by contractors, however, and some will not be replaced at all.
#4:  Climate adaptation Coastal communities, especially, will begin to actually implement aspects of their climate change adaptation plans aimed at preparing for storm surges and other coastal hazards.  Unfortunately, sea walls and other shoreline hardening may continue to be preferred over natural (green infrastructure) plans, generating more construction jobs than ecological ones. Activist pressure in support of green infrastructure can make a difference here.
#5:  Food systems Student and job-seeker interest in urban food systems and alternative agriculture is very high, and college/university programs are springing up to serve this interest.  It’s hard, however, to see how actual job numbers will match this high interest. Will track this closely in 2017.
#6  Big data With the rise of big data analysis possibilities for environmental protection purposes (and the increase in relatively inexpensive data gathering technologies) we’re predicting a shortage of qualified “big data” analysts with an environmental focus.
#7  Permitting A long standing equation shows that increases in construction for buildings and infrastructure (as expected in 2017) are coupled with increases in work related to environmental assessments and permitting. Expect this to hold true again next year.  Certainly one of the best bets re: where eco-jobs will be.
#8:  Facilities management Look for more and more corporate, academic and municipal “sustainability” assignments to be incorporated into the job descriptions of existing facilities management and/or Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) staff.  Community colleges and job training organizations may be called on for “green up” training of existing personnel.
#9:  Insufficient funding Most state government environmental, conservation, and parks/recreation agencies in the USA will (once again) be asked to perform their duties with budgets that fall far short of the actual need.  The maintenance backlog will continue to grow.
#10: Activist jobs Rapid changes in the political, demographic, financial and technological landscape require new approaches to campaign organizing, membership development and fundraising.  Nonprofit environmental managers/professionals with proven, recent successes that combine mastery of social marketing strategies with old-school approaches, will be in demand.
#11: Financing Demand is already strong for professionals who can craft innovate public/private partnerships and other creative financing arrangements to pay for environmental improvements.  Financing water and stormwater management infrastructure is a common challenge in need of innovation.
#12: Summary  The nation has never needed a talented and passionate environmental professional workforce more than it does in 2017.  For those already employed, we will need all of your energy and creativity next year. For students and job seekers, best of luck to you.  I’m grateful that a new generation is arriving to take on this critical work.