Going After Green Jobs
Earth Week job fair among campus initiatives helping students find sustainable opportunities
Ioana Patringenaru | May 3, 2010
Blueray Curtiss is a graduate student at the Rady School of Management, who will be looking for a green job once he graduates.
They want to fight climate change. They want to help boost the production of solar and wind energy. They want to make a difference and make the planet a better place.
A growing number of UC San Diego students are looking for—and finding—green jobs after they graduate. The trend doesn’t just affect UCSD, but is national, said Andrew Ceperley, director of the UCSD Career Services Center. According to a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the number of green jobs in the United States increased by 9.1 percent from 1998 to 2007.
To help both graduate and undergraduate students meet their green career goals, the campus has been offering a wide range of services. As part of Earth Week, the career center hosted a Green Careers Industry Fest and a panel discussing environmental jobs on April 21. UC San Diego Extension also has dramatically increased the number of its course offerings related to sustainability. At the Rady School of Management, Robin Darmon, the director of MBA Career Connections, has been hunting for job opportunities with companies that make sustainability a centerpiece of their business.
It’s true that the sustainability sector is one of the few that keeps growing through this recession, Darmon said. But the students’ interest in green jobs stems from their convictions.
“They want to make an impact,” he said. “They want to do something good.”
Andrew Ceperley, director of the Career Services Center, says more and more students are looking for sustainability-related jobs.
With its focus on engineering and biological sciences, UCSD, and the Rady School, are uniquely positioned to benefit from this trend, Darmon said. The university has recently been rated one of the most environmentally responsible campuses in the nation by The Princeton Review. “It’s definitely our sweet spot,” Darmon said.
But green jobs aren’t just for engineering and biology majors, said Ceperley. From energy economics and sustainable building designs to water conservation and biofuels made from algae, sharply higher numbers of undergraduates are opting for majors and minors, classes, internships and research projects that emphasize environmental sustainability.
This year alone, the number of students minoring in Environmental Studies doubled and Environmental Engineering majors increased by 50 percent. In the eight years since the Division of Physical Sciences created the Environmental Systems major, enrollment has grown from a handful of students to more than 200 registered in fall 2009.
At the Earth Week career fair, Dominique Navarro and Whitney Ketchum, two seniors majoring in environmental systems, said the environment was definitely a growing concern for them and their classmates. The two had different career goals in mind. Ketchum, who already works for San Diego County’s recycling program, said she was keeping an open mind about job opportunities, from biofuels to community outreach. Navarro said she was interested in policy and government.
A potential employer talks to UCSD students during the Green Careers Industry Fest talking place during Earth Week at the Career Services Center.
One of the advantages of a career fair focused on sustainability is that it attracts companies that recruit from a wide range of majors, from the social sciences, to arts and humanities, to the hard sciences, Ceperley said.
Brent Lee, a junior and environmental engineering major, was at the job fair to publicize to potential employers his student organization, Engineers for a Sustainable World. He too said his classmates care about the environment. “It’s a huge field and everybody is interested,” he said. Engineering problems really are at the root of all the challenges the planet is facing, Lee added. His goal is to create new technologies that could lead to future solutions. “I really want to make a difference in the world,” he said.
Meanwhile, Blueray Curtiss, a graduate student at the Rady School, said he too has seen increased interest in sustainability issues from his classmates. For the longest time, the business world adopted a short-term prospective, looking only at quarterly profits. It is now adopting a long-term prospective, and sustainability is a big part of that, Curtiss said.
He is the president of Rady’s Net Impact student organization, which aims to create networking, educational and hands-on opportunities for students and professionals who want to affect business commitment to social, environmental and economic sustainability. Curtiss calls it businesses’ triple bottom line. But he is mindful to say that profit is still important. Without it, companies can’t fulfill their mission, he said.
Whitney Ketchum, an environmental systems major, talks to Mike Russell, a human resources manager for EdeniQ, a biofuels company.
Curtiss is emblematic of the sustainability focus that many students have adopted since Rady’s first class, Darmon said. About 10 percent of last year’s graduates are working in the energy sector, where the bulk of green jobs are. For example, an alum from 2009 is working for enXco, a company affiliated with France’s main utilities provider and headquartered in Escondido and Palm Springs. The company is a leader in wind project development. An alum from the class of 2008 is working with Sapphire Energy, Inc., a company that is developing biofuels. Other alumni have gone on to work for Sempra Energy, San Diego Gas and Electric and Chevron.
“I just feel like San Diego is situated in a hotbed for the future of sustainability,” Darmon said.
Employers at Earth Week job fair said they’ve definitely been receiving more resumes from UCSD graduates applying for sustainability-related jobs. Applicants are qualified and well-prepared, said Mike Russell, a human resources manager for EdeniQ, a biofuels company.
“It’s a growth industry,” he said. “But there are also many socially conscious students out there.”