“When I was 16, I had a green job internship with a civil and architecture firm. I worked with the engineer and the architect to make sure that construction sites were meeting environmental standards. My work made me feel great. The problem was I had to help support my family financially and that internship didn’t pay enough. Since I made so little I had to find a job that would pay me more. Which led me to a job that I could get at the age of 16 – a factory job in an unhealthy work environment.”
– Claira Le, Young Leaders in the Green Movement Committee Member
In 2010 the Washington State unemployment rate amongst African- American young people ages 18-34 was 24%; for Latino young adults, 16%. In 2013 Got Green surveyed 150 young adults of color and from low income backgrounds and 32% of participants told us they are out of work but looking. In follow-up discussions participants frequently spoke of the intense competition in the job market, and cited “lack of work experience” as the reason most often given when turned down for a job.
Over the past year a dozen young adult activists serving on the “Young Leaders in the Green Movement” steering committee zeroed in on this issue. We interviewed leaders from the $15 Now campaign, met with Mayor Murray’s staff, learned about current internship opportunities through the City of Seattle’s Office of Personnel, and researched other City-sponsored programs for youth to get hands-on work experience. We did our homework!
We learned that despite young adults of color having a strong preference for employment in fields that benefit the environment (2/3’s of our survey participants ranked green jobs as a top priority) few pathways exist for us to get living wage, on- the- job training in sustainable fields. In 2015 we are launching a community organizing and grassroots advocacy campaign to change that.
Young Leaders in the Green Movement will be calling on our Seattle elected officials to create 100 new living wage, environmentally sustainable internships targeted at young adults of color and young people living in disadvantaged neighborhoods in our City.
“We see paid internships leading to living wage environmentally sustainable careers as an opportunity for our city to contribute to environmental health and advance employment outlooks for young people,” said Yolanda Matthews, a Got Green young leader. “We are calling on the City of Seattle to create equity for young adults of color in the workforce and this is a good place to start.”
Earlier this year Seattle was awarded a prestigious “5 Star Community Rating” for environmental sustainability. However we fell short in the areas of environmental justice and racial equity. We see the Living Wage Green Internships campaign as a way for young people of color to contribute to Seattle’s climate action goals, and for our city’s climate action efforts to speak directly to our communities most often left behind.
If you are a young adult between the ages of 17-34 and want to get involved with the Young Leaders in the Green Movement project, call or email Mo! (253) 234-7424, firstname.lastname@example.org