Former El Cerrito Mayor Ann Cheng, now program director with the advocacy group Transform, discusses green careers in the nonprofit sector with local high-school students at the EBGC Green Career Fair. (Roibín Ó hÉochaidh photo)
Hundreds of ecology-minded high-school students attended a recent Green Education and Career Exploration Fair at UC Berkeley to explore college and career opportunities in the clean-tech economy of tomorrow
The East Bay Green Corridor’s third annual fair, held March 16, offered students a chance to learn more about the ever-growing educational and professional options open to them after high school from public and private sector organizations involved in shaping the green economy.
One of the companies at the fair, Berkeley startup Amyris, offers careers in bioengineering of pharmaceuticals and biofuels. Other companies included Pacific Gas & Electric and AC Transit, Bayer, Chevron and Siemens along with nearly 50 industries, education, nonprofit and government organizations represented at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union building.
“Elements of sustainability are slowly being integrated into all aspects of everyday life,” said environmental consultant Richard Grassetti. “Hopefully, talking to people in industry will grab students’ attention and inspire them as they think about their future careers.”
The students — all from specialized high-school green academies in Berkeley, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Oakland and San Lorenzo —visited the different booths, quizzing representatives about the evolving green-collar jobs sector and career opportunities in traditional and emerging industries, from construction and transportation to renewable energy and bioengineering.
Green-career academies focus on interdisciplinary curricula in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, emphasizing experiential-learning models that apply core academic and practical skills in real-world settings connected to the green economy.
“I wanted to find out more about college options that focus on the environment and also allow me to use my skills in math and science,” said 17-year-old Rosemary Davies, a senior in sustainability, ecology and environmental design at Berkeley High’s green academy. “I just wish I’d had more time to explore.”
Karin Hauck of Berkeley’s Space Sciences Lab captured students’ attention with a thermal-imaging demonstration. UC had representatives on hand from the Space Sciences Lab, the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center, the Office of Sustainability and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
“Beyond opening students up to the growing range of opportunities in the green sector, the fair offers students an opportunity to practice talking to potential employers,” said Assistant Dean Kimberly Johnson, who manned a booth for the College of Natural Resources.
“We wanted our students to learn about green sectors, technologies and companies that they might not have thought about before, and I was impressed by the number and variety of organizations at the fair,” said Dale Fiess, a teacher at Skyline High School’s green academy.
Launched in 2007, the East Bay Green Corridor — a collaborative effort involving UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley Lab, California State University East Bay, Peralta Community Colleges and eight cities, including Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and Richmond — aims to establish the East Bay as an epicenter of clean-technology innovation and enterprise.