Growing the Clean Economy with Today’s Youth

Interview with Lydia Avila, Executive Director of the Energy Action Coalition (EAC).

Lydia Avila has been the Executive Director of Energy Action Coalition since June of 2015. Photo courtesy of Lydia Avila.

Lydia Avila has been the Executive Director of Energy Action Coalition since June of 2015.
Photo courtesy of Lydia Avila.

Lydia Avila is Executive Director of Energy Action Coalition (EAC). EAC is “a coalition of youth-led social and environmental justice organizations working together to build the youth clean energy and climate movement”. EAC has worked with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) over the years, and recently they have contributed to the plan developed by NWF and Jobs For the Future (JFF) to prepare 20 million global sustainability citizens by 2025 called “Greenprint: A Plan to Prepare Community College Students for Careers in the Clean Economy.”

Lydia (LA) recently spoke with David Corsar (DC) of NWF about EAC, careers in clean energy, and her own career path.

DC: How does the provision of green and clean jobs in the energy industry relate to your work at EAC?

LA: I would say that we’re working with the next generation of the workforce at all times. We work with youth – which is not always students, though they tend to be the most active – but, we also work with folks that are straight out of high school through post-college. There are opportunities for them to get involved in the green workforce.

And part of that is that we want to create opportunities for them. So, not just fight the bad, which is what many concentrate on, but also build the good, so that they have economic and job opportunities available to them.

Energy Action Coalition has hosted 4 National Power Shift summits. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Linh Do.

Energy Action Coalition has hosted 4 National Power Shift summits.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Linh Do.

DC: If a community college student is interested in going into a career in clean energy, or related clean economy careers, what advice would you give them and how might your organization be able to help them?

LA: That’s an interesting question. So, my organization takes an activist approach. We are always thinking about things as campaigns, and what do we do to create more opportunities and extend what we’re already doing. If somebody’s looking to make these opportunities more widely available and accessible, then I would hope that we could bring them in as a champion. So, how can they get involved with advocating for it, maybe presenting to other schools and even within their school to help grow the workforce and give other people the opportunity to do similar work? I think it is a supply and demand in many ways when it comes to the green economy.

DC: How might community college presidents help their students who are interested in jobs in the clean economy?

LA: I think that there’s a lot to be said about outreach from all university administrators, not just presidents or even community colleges specifically, but also career centers and the folks responsible for connecting students to jobs and opportunities. In my experience, as an undergraduate and to some extent as a graduate student, they were not as effective as I’d hoped. I would expect that community colleges probably face similar challenges and maybe even more so.

So, being proactive about reaching out to these companies; I imagine that a lot of these companies are focusing on extending their product and their reach, but maybe not making connections to the workforce. Or if they are, maybe they’re not as engaged with local community colleges offerings as they should be. I would say don’t overestimate existing relationships because my guess is that they probably don’t exist anymore or they are very weak and so strengthening that and being proactive about reaching out to those companies that could potentially be hiring those students is always a good approach.

Protesters at a recent Power Shift summit. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Linh Do.

Protesters at a recent Power Shift summit. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Linh Do.

DC: So, with the presidential race underway, what would you like to ask or tell the presidential candidates about workforce preparation for a clean and green economy?

LA: There’s so much I would like to tell them (laughs). I would challenge them: if you’re really about creating jobs, like all candidates claim to be, then you’re going to support initiatives that make sense with where the energy sector is going – the future of the energy industry – and nobody can argue that this isn’t where the energy sector is going. So, if you don’t support these initiatives around the country, you really are denying jobs and opportunities more so than something like putting a stop to a short-term project like Keystone XL did. Because it’s a long-term investment and something that is clearly on the upward trajectory. That’s what I would emphasize.

Read Lydia’s full interview here.

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