Biden Announces American Climate Corps to Put Young People in Sustainability Jobs

The American Climate Corps aims to train 20,000 young Americans in jobs combating climate change and promoting sustainability.
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Published on September 21, 2023
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  • The American Climate Corps (ACC) will give young people paid experiences and pathways to careers combating climate change.
  • Several federal agencies are creating programs to help the ACC.
  • The Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate organization, has pushed the Biden administration since 2020 to create a Civilian Climate Corps.
  • The movement for fossil-free career training at U.S. colleges is growing.

The Biden administration announced the launch of the American Climate Corps (ACC), which plans to put young people in jobs to combat climate change.

The White House released a statement Sept. 20 announcing the workforce training and service initiative to put 20,000 people on career pathways in clean energy, conservation, and climate resilience in its first year.

The ACC plans to:

  • Restore coastal wetlands to protect communities from storm surges and flooding
  • Deploy clean energy
  • Increase forest health and wildfire prevention
  • Implement energy-saving methods for families

Students can apply for and learn about local opportunities on the White House's new recruitment website.

"Today's historic action to put an American Climate Corps into motion is a clear demonstration that the Biden Administration knows there are more ways they can leverage executive power to lead an all out mobilization of our government and society to stop the climate crisis," Varshini Prakash, executive director of the youth-led climate organization Sunrise Movement, said in a press release.

"Young people everywhere should feel empowered by this victory and continue demanding the change we need."

The Sunrise Movement began publicly pressuring the Biden administration in December 2020 to create a Civilian Climate Corps. It worked with U.S. Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York to push legislation.

The launch of the ACC coincides with growing momentum around the fossil-free career movement in the U.S.

The movement is already strong in the United Kingdom, where students protest and kick fossil fuel companies out of college career fairs, Ilana Cohen, board chair and co-founder of Fossil Free Research, previously told BestColleges.

The ACC will build on state-level climate corps programs in California, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, and Washington, and newly announced programs in Arizona, Utah, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Maryland.

How Federal Agencies Contribute to ACC

The ACC will provide paid experiences and pathways to careers combating climate change in the public and private sectors. Several federal agencies will sign a memorandum of understanding to formalize this new initiative. Here are specifics from some of those agencies:

Department of Energy

The Department of Energy (DOE) announced a $10 million grant program alongside the ACC for pre-apprenticeship programs to install energy-efficient building technology. DOE is prioritizing education and job training for underrepresented and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups.

U.S. Forest Service

Americorps and the U.S. Forest Service launched a $15 million interagency partnership over five years as the Forest Corps. The program will have 80 participants ages 18-26 in wildland fire prevention, reforestation, and other programs to support the U.S. Forest Service's Wildfire Crisis Strategy and Reforestation Strategy.

Forest Corps participants will be paid $15 an hour with lodging, transportation, clothing, allowance, health benefits, and more.

Students at several historically Black colleges and universities are already fighting wildfires and treating land through the 1890 Land Grant Institution Wildland Fire Consortium. Any student can get involved in the U.S. Forest Service's programs.

Department of the Interior

The Department of the Interior announced a $15 million commitment to expand the Indian Youth Service Corps to further conservation and climate projects for underserved communities by 30%.

"This past summer we saw record climate disasters, record labor strikes demanding good, meaningful work, and major climate protests led by young people," Prakash said in the press release.

"The American Climate Corps is a response that begins to meet the moment and show young people how their government can work for them. We're often asked how President Biden can win the support and enthusiasm of young people. He's gotten our attention. Keep going."

The Sunrise Movement celebrated another win last week after New York University (NYU) divested its endowment from all fossil fuel corporations and committed to no more direct investments in the fossil fuel industry. The chair of the NYU Board of Trustees commended the Sunrise Movement NYU chapter's yearslong push for divestment.