By John Esson
The National Association of Environmental Professionals and American Public University hosted the Careers Webinar: Transitioning to the Professional World: What You Don't Learn in the Classroom on February 8, 2017. Speakers included:
I kicked off the presentations by describing what I called the fruit basket upset resulting from drastic federal environmental and staffing cuts.
What just happened to environmental careers?
The new Administration's first action on January 20 was to implement a federal hiring freeze. It is still too early to tell, but this hiring freeze appears to be at least as deep as the last major hiring freeze affecting federal environmental professionals back in 1981.
Back then, the Environmental Career Center published a
jobs newsletter that focused on government jobs. There was a 67% cut in temporary and 90% cut in federal environmental and natural resources hiring for about a year.
The Trump federal hiring freeze appears destined to be at least as dramatic as the Reagan federal hiring freeze, and probably measurably more severe. We still find some environmental and natural resources jobs listed at USAjobs.gov in March 2017. But the jobs are fewer.
Federal budget and staffing cuts and the rolling back of environmental regulations are just beginning. This roll-back will likely have some trickle-down effect on environmental consulting career opportunities and even affect state and local agencies that receive substantial funding from federal grant and cost-sharing programs.
So, is there a silver lining?
Donations to environmental nonprofit organizations grew in the early 1980s, and the good news is that public concern and donations are surging again in 2017. That will help environmental advocacy organizations to grow and increase jobs in the nonprofit sector.
The success of nonprofit advocacy organizations and public pressure will be critical in reducing adverse effects of proposed gutting of federal environmental regulations. Strong, enforced environmental regulations are key drivers for environmental careers.
Environmental careers will be better protected in 2017 and beyond if the nonprofits are more successful. Maybe we should donating to them.
Green business and corporate sustainability careers is another sector we are bullish about. Over the past decade, stockholders, stakeholders, customers, and employers of corporate America have helped companies embrace social responsibility and sustainability into their culture, products, and services.
The White House tenants didn’t shape corporate culture in the past, and they won’t in the future.
GreenBiz.com just published their 2017 State of Green Business Report and the future is bright for recent college graduates and professionals seeking sustainability career opportunities. Here are the results from GreenBiz.com’s question What impact with the 2016 U.S. election have on your company’s sustainability strategy?:
Over 93% of company sustainability professionals said that the U.S. election will have little or no impact on their programs. John Davies, Senior Analyst and Vice President at GreenBiz, said that the reasons for corporate sustainability optimism are threefold:
So, the green business world is alive and well. The corporate sustainability careers market is solid.
Other sectors for increasing career opportunities in 2017 will be in environmental consulting and permitting for an anticipated major federal infrastructure program and for coal, oil, and gas development.
See the full environmental careers webinar at the NAEP website.