Green Jobs Case Study


Thanks mainly to state and city policy investing in the development of a green workforce, New York City hosts an emerging ecosystem of green jobs training providers, employers, and intermediaries.  

Careers in the green economy are already providing good wages and opportunities for advancement and wage progression. These jobs can also lead to tangible environmental improvements in low-income communities, providing important avenues for community development and empowerment, and the education and workforce systems play a significant role in producing knowledgeable and skilled workers in these fields.

MDRC’s New York City Green Jobs Case Study explores whether and how career and technical education (CTE) programs in high schools, community colleges, and workforce training providers may be adapting to prepare students for the skills necessary to succeed in the green economy—now and in the future. The research team’s findings, shared in a research brief at the end of the study, will aim to show how the lessons learned from the NYC region can be applied elsewhere in the U.S.

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

In this case study, we plan to explore how career and technical education (CTE) programs adapt to prepare students for the expected growth of green jobs, particularly focusing on how underserved populations gain access to the higher-paying jobs to reduce equity gaps. Based on the team’s expertise in CTE and workforce development, MDRC’s Center for Effective Career and Technical Education will conduct a set of case studies to help better understand both the successes and barriers to establishing a well-aligned education and workforce training system for preparing young people for an emerging green economy.

The study will address the following questions:

  • What is the scope of green jobs skills that employers are seeking to fill existing green jobs?  
  • What skills are predicted to be in demand for green jobs in the next several years?  
  • Are CTE program developers aligning programming with employer demand for skills?   
  • How are green jobs CTE programs addressing equity?  
  • How do green jobs CTE programs support students to learn skills for specific “green jobs” and to engage in the “greening” of more traditional jobs?  
  • What supports do participants need to persist in and complete green pathways programs?   

What factors promote students’ success in these programs? 

Design, Sites, and Data Sources

The Green Jobs Case Study will be designed to get insights from stakeholders who are directly affected by the rise of the green job market. Data sources may include:

Site Visits: This phase will include interviews with leaders at each site and facilities tours to understand infrastructure and scale, and observations of training and other relevant activities. Interviews with program supervisors and key partners will seek to understand what stakeholders are doing to prepare students/participants for the green labor market, including understanding what skills and possible credentials are necessary, as well as employer demand for skilled workers. MDRC’s Center for Effective Career and Technical Education will also seek to learn more about how trainers and educators understand the full range of jobs that are part of the green economy, as well as gain an understanding of both more traditional green jobs (for instance, solar and wind installers) and existing jobs that are “greening” in response to changing economic and climate needs (for example, how to make HVAC systems be responsive to more variable changes in temperature or use less energy).

Interviews: Interviews with instructors and other program staff, such as case managers/coaches, advisors, and job placement specialists, will investigate how these programs are marketed and who participates in them; what kinds of skills are necessary to begin training and who is screened in or out; how training is delivered (for instance, hands-on versus text-based); what kinds of supports students need to be successful in training, and whether and how they receive those supports; how students make decisions about specific pathways within the green jobs industry; and what kinds of assistance they get, if any, in finding employment in their field of study. If feasible, classroom training will be observed and focus groups conducted with students to learn about their experiences in the program. An additional area for exploration will be whether and how students in green jobs training programs understand larger issues of climate. For example, does training for green jobs and green industries have an impact on overall knowledge about climate change and sustainability?