Focus on Local Green Career Preparedness: 2019 Symposium Recap

On Wednesday July 17, 2019, the National Wildlife Federation hosted a symposium of secondary and post-secondary educators, nonprofits, and employers to examine the intersection of career preparedness and green workforce in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia at its headquarters in Reston, Virginia. Attendees represented a range of stakeholder groups, from agencies (Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District); to secondary education (Arlington, Prince William County, Fairfax County, and Washington DC Schools); higher education (George Mason University, George Washington University, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University); partner organizations (Earth Conservation Corps and Leaders in Energy); and green employers (USDA Forest Service and Noblis, LLC).

The day was divided into two halves, with the morning sessions being focused on clarifying the dual issues of the student career preparedness gap and the characterization and identification of green careers in the Washington Capital Region. The afternoon focused on sharing best practices and opportunities for collaboration among educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and other community partners.

David Corsar, NWF’s Career Center Manager, moderated the morning panel, with the following presenters:
• Keyana Ellis Reynolds, Volunteers & Service Program Coordinator; U.S. Forest Service
• Lisa Miller, Project Manager; Noblis
• Elizabeth Thakkar, Environmental Educator; Earth Conservation Corps

The morning panel, from left to right: Keyana Ellis Reynolds, Elizabeth Thakkar, and Lisa Miller with moderator David Corsar

“The increased need for sustainability leaders requires platforms that encourage a new and diverse generation of change agents across the lifespan — those who can authentically connect individual and community values to challenge norms, advocate for and apply innovation, and transform green spaces through social, economic, systemic, and environmental change,” said Keyana Ellis Reynolds, volunteers and service program coordinator for the U.S. Forest Service.

Kim Martinez, NWF’s Senior Director of K-16 Education, moderated the afternoon panel, with the following panelists:
• Matt Bechtel, School Based Technology Specialist; Fairfax County Public Schools
• Jeanne Jabara, Energy Education and Sustainability Coordinator; Prince William County Schools
• Caroline Ramirez-Gaston; Manager, Industry Advising & Employer Development; George Mason University
• Angelique Sykes; NAF Engineering Educator and HDW Travel Ambassador; DC Public Schools

Kim Martinez, at left, moderating the afternoon panel of Jeanne Jabara, Angelique Sykes,
Caroline Ramirez-Gaston, and Matt Bechtel.

David and Kim also presented to the attendees on opportunities to collaborate with NWF on a deeper level, by growing the Eco-Schools USA network and by implementing EcoLeaders and EcoCareers programming (such as the interactive career planning tool) in area high schools.

A number of common themes emerged, from the need to instill confidence and environmental literacy in today’s students to the need for employers to play a larger role in helping shape state and district educational standards and goals and to offer more work-based learning opportunities with commitments to hire from within local communities. These conversations led to commitments between attendees ranging from simply sharing resources to agreeing to co-create career development programming for local high school students.

With its long history and extensive programming in K-12, community colleges, universities, and local communities across the country, the National Wildlife Federation is dedicated to continuing to bring these and other stakeholders to the table to prepare our young people for the green jobs that they desire. Thank you to Wells Fargo for your ongoing support for these efforts in Washington DC and Virginia. Thanks also to all the speakers and attendees for making this event an interactive, exciting, and dynamic experience for all.