We live in an era that has seen a plethora of advanced technological innovations from mobile connectivity virtually anywhere in the world, to the Internet of Things, to the availability of advanced degrees offered completely online. Within the next five years, over 8.6 million jobs in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields will open up and sadly many of our young people will be unprepared for these opportunities. According to a report from the Social Science Research Council’s Measure of America Initiative, one in seven young people in the US are considered “disconnected youth” meaning youth who are neither in school nor have a job. The study ranks Los Angeles number 12 out of the 25 largest metropolitan cities with the highest in youth unemployment.

Center for Powerful Public Schools recently launched its Engineering Environmental Innovation (EEI) program, funded by Citi Foundation and America’s Promise Alliance, to address youth unemployment, opportunity gaps and skills gaps. The program centers on hands-on training to prepare students for internships and careers in the high growth sector of energy engineering and environmental sustainability.

The EEI program was designed to engage 16-18 year old high school students in technical skills in the field of energy engineering and to prepare them to become career-ready. The EEI program at the Environmental Science Engineering and Technology (ESET) Academy of Carson High School has worked on multiple ways to experiment with programmable LED lights. Students from ESET believe that EEI can be a way for them to become more involved within the world: “…joining EEI was just natural for me. It’s what I’ve been looking for…a way to help our planet by being engineers on our campus.” – ESET Student. 

We believe that the EEI program can work to address the high number of unemployed youth in Los Angeles. Youth unemployment has layers of consequences and scarring effects not just on youth but on society as well. These young people will suffer continuous unemployment and unstable employment due to widening knowledge and skills gaps. Allowing young people to be disconnected is unacceptable to the well being of our society.

According to the Social Science Research Council, Los Angeles has the lowest percentage of high school educated adults as well as the highest high school dropout rates. The EEI program is a way to expose young people to the multiple opportunities within the STEM fields to utilize engineering to solve our world’s problems.

“The field of engineering is immensely important in solving issues the world is facing today. Some of our biggest environmental issues, like global warming and degradation of natural ecosystems, are being exacerbated by anthropogenic processes. Humans contribute to global warming through their combustion of fossil fuels for electricity, industry, and transportation…. I believe this program conveys my passion for the environment, technology and my education. “ – EEI Student

With timely policy focus on energy efficiency and acknowledgement of the need for lighting upgrades, EEI has been warmly welcomed by industry, local government, educators and students during the program’s development phase. We look forward to keeping you updated on EEI’s impact on opportunity youth in Los Angeles throughout its implementation phase.