NJHEPS | New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability
New Jersey Higher Education
Partnership for Sustainability

NJHEPS White Paper: Sustainability Career Paths for Students, 2.0

07 Jan 2015 1:00 PM | Anonymous

In Spring 2012, NJHEPS embarked on an exploration of the sustainability career possibilities for our students and graduates. This White Paper is one of the outcomes. Dr. Donald Wheeler and Pamela Sammarco, CPLP, M.S. HRM, co-chairs, led a feasibility study team of seven members from business, higher education and government to envision the project. Sustainability faculty, career development directors and students from thirteen institutions of higher education in N.J. were interviewed along with government officials, business leaders and researchers dealing with sustainability careers. We are grateful for their insights and cooperation.

We consider this White Paper to be a “work in progress” and look forward to suggested updates, additions and corrections from readers. Please address them to: drdwheeler@optonline.net

What follows is the Executive Summary of the White Paper.


“Higher education is called to join with others in the monumental challenge to lead the paradigm shift of humankind toward sustainability. One crucial task is to prepare students for sustainability careers. With a mandate from NJHEPS and encouragement from Aaron Fichtner, Deputy Commissioner, NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development, we conducted this study on advancing sustainability careers for students involving 13 institutions of higher education, three student focus groups, many documents and meetings.

Using a systems approach, we examined the roles of four key stakeholders and the working relationships between them in contributing to student career development. These are: the students themselves, employers and their human resources officers, the higher education institutions and their career development offices. We found that higher education institutions can create a closer and deeper match of students with 21st century skills and sustainability knowledge and competencies to job eligibility and qualification requirements. Employers may need assistance to better align talent strategies with the organization’s sustainability priorities and improve communication between college, students and employers.

Students must prepare to: transcend the skills gap in key areas noted by employers; master the field of sustainability and, in addition, a discipline or profession in which to practice it; and they need to get practical experience through involvement in greening their campus and internships. Employers must also learn sustainability, apply it to their enterprises and reach out to graduates for employees. Campus career development offices are the official liaisons on the higher education side and human resource offices on the employer side and both can become better-equipped to build a strong green career bridge.

All NJ higher education institutions have at least one faculty or staff “champion” of sustainability and all have incorporated sustainability into their goals, curriculum and campus life to different degrees. The students’ higher education institution plays the key role in preparing them for sustainability careers. The central factors in developing student interest in sustainability careers appear to be: the quality of the institution and its academic and co-curricular programs in sustainability and the students’ involvement in

initiatives to “green the campus” and sustainability issues outside the campus. However, guidance by faculty, sustainability staff and career development offices and connection with potential employers are also needed for students to get a start in a sustainability career. In addition to providing a path to sustainability careers, it is important for higher education institutions to emphasize that all jobs in all fields can be enhanced by incorporating sustainability goals, strategies and practices. And as Jaime Ewal Gray says, “sustainability skills/competencies will give graduates a competitive edge.”

 Sustainability is a relatively new field for both higher education and employers and it is changing rapidly. Both sectors are gearing up to take advantage of the opportunities and challenges offered by sustainability. NJ higher education has roughly, 120 sustainability-related academic programs depending on how broadly we define “sustainability -related”--- with an estimated 2400 students. Only 15 of these programs at the BA or MA level have the word sustainability, sustainable or renewable energy in their program name. NJ community colleges have 15 such programs with 12 being certificate or A.A.S. programs in the energy field aimed directly at employment and 3 being A.S. degrees designed for transfer to four year institutions. Several new programs are now being developed. Most NJ sustainability academic programs are less than ten years old.

Out of 3,793,720 jobs in NJ by May, 2012, Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates, 2.2% or 81,018 are “green goods and services jobs”, 76% of which are in New Jersey’s private sector. Including that number and broadening the definition from “green jobs” (that focus on the environment) to “sustainability” jobs (that also include equity and economy) and we have a considerable number of sustainability jobs in New Jersey, perhaps as many as 100,000. The degree to which these jobs are sustainability-related varies greatly. Increasing the number of “sustainability” students employed in New Jersey has the potential to strengthen the sustainability sector in the economy and society.

In this white paper we make specific recommendations for each stakeholder to advance sustainability careers. Our hope is that this paper may be useful in developing career opportunities for students through coordinated initiatives in NJ institutions of higher education collaborating with state-wide employer networks and aligned with NJ state government to develop the sustainability sector of the economy and create jobs.”

Click below for copy of the Sustainability Career Paths White Paper:


Please direct requests for the  Sustainability Career Paths White Paper to the email below:


The New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability
     c/o Ramapo College of New Jersey - SSHS
505 Ramapo Valley Rd, Mahwah, NJ 07430
Phone:(201)684-7830 | Fax:(201)684-7932
Email - njheps@gmail.com

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