A Post-Election Challenge for BC Alumni
By Fran Dubrowski NC '70 and Tori Scarzello '13
The 2016 presidential election signaled an abrupt shift in American politics, raising profound questions about what the future holds for the energy and environment field. America's energy landscape, environmental regulations, and climate change strategy may look very different four years from now. If this prospect keeps corporate CEOs and policy planners on edge, imagine how scary it must seem to undergraduates trying to launch a career!
Political rhetoric is taking a toll on college campuses. Disheartened students have begun to question a degree in the energy and environment field; many may ultimately shun energy and environment careers altogether.
Even the undeterred may face shrinking options. If President Trump pursues the goals he, as candidate Trump, proposed – scrapping most of EPA as we know it, overturning the Obama administration's climate initiatives, and cutting back on government funding and regulation — the energy and environmental job market could face significant short-term disruption. Many federal jobs could disappear. Displaced federal workers might seek employment at state and local agencies, consulting firms, and private companies, increasing competition for non-federal jobs and placing students, with less experience, at a competitive disadvantage.
Of course, a vacuum of activity at the federal level can create its own opportunities for offsetting job growth. Private sector energy and environment initiatives are now often driven by consumer demand and market incentives rather than federal regulation – pressures that will only continue to grow. Every day, innovative startups are bringing a host of new sustainable business ideas to the market place – and some of these companies may grow to rival the successes of Google, Apple, and Facebook. Budgets permitting, State and local agencies may also strive to fill the void created by a shrinking federal presence. But private sector, startup, and state and local agency initiatives receive less media attention than federal agencies (including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), so students may know less about these career opportunities.
In this climate, it is critical that we support those already working in this field and also those who will eventually fill their shoes. For BCEEAN alumni, this means stepping up two aspects of our work: supporting BC's new Environmental Studies major and helping students find jobs in the energy and environment field. Now, more than ever, we need the collective dedication, support, and resources of our members. Stay tuned for opportunities to get more involved in the BC community, and let us know your thoughts, ideas, or suggestions on how we can work together to achieve these goals. Please comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.