Sustainable Workforce Development Network

Building Sustainable Career Pathways

The Institute's Sustainability Journey

The transition to a sustainable economy is the most challenging issue of the 21st century.

Young people are eager to get involved with sustainability – and want to learn what they can do. They are keen to get jobs and careers to rebuild the planet. The stories in this book have been thoughtfully chosen to showcase solutions to the most pressing issues of our time. Our companion curriculum makes it easy for educators to bring these stories to life in their classroom. The Institute is committed to bringing these educational tools to our schools. We hope you will join with us!

What We’ve Learned

For over 25 years, the Institute has worked alongside young people who are on the front lines of climate change, social justice, and economic equity. Island people are now “the canaries in the coal mine.” Every day they see their coastlines eroding, their fish supply depleted, plastics littering their beaches, and toxic waste and environmental hazards dumped into their pristine waters. In Hawaii, where they’ve set an ambitious goal of 100 % renewable energy by 2045, their systems are woefully lacking, especially their schools.

Education: The Challenge

As the news reveals every day, we need everyone to help rebuild the world in a sustainable way—one that provides opportunities to everyone, but not at the cost of future generations or the planet. However, while young people are hungry to learn how they can adapt to climate change in their communities, few students are obtaining even the basic STEM education they’ll need to navigate that new reality. Few are learning how critical an understanding of sustainability is to their future. Ironically, at a time when we need more STEM education to help students prepare for the transition to a sustainable economy, schools are struggling to hire and keep STEM teachers. Some leave teaching for higher-paid jobs with companies. Some schools are even cutting their STEM programs to meet budget demands. Now with the COVID pandemic, many students must learn online with limited opportunities to develop their critical thinking skills, explore project-based learning, or even get the basic scientific understanding they need to help be part of this transition.

The Institute’s Educational Tools

Over the years, the Institute has become a leader in developing sustainable education and sustainable workforce development educational tools — by listening to and learning from young people and their community’s leaders. Our multicultural youth are leading the way toward a reimagined future, where sustainability and environmental justice are at the forefront. The Institute’s Sustainability Summit, and our educational tools, books, lesson plans, career mentoring, and workforce development programs through SustainWDN™, are custom-designed to prepare the next generation of youth leaders to build a more just, equitable, and sustainable world. Our programs align with Next Generation STEM state standards as well the Green New Deal and President Biden’s Plan for Climate Change and Environmental Justice.

Stone Soup for a Sustainable World: Life-Changing Stories of Young Heroes features the stories of 100 climate change trailblazers, environmental justice changemakers, educator champions, sustainable business leaders, intergenerational legacy figures, green inventors and entrepreneurs, and emerging island leaders from 38 countries around the world, and 32 cities in the U.S. who are building a more just, equitable, and sustainable world.

Our Companion Educational Curriculum is a dynamic, solutions-oriented program that brings these stories to life with lesson plans for each story that highlight the values and academic disciplines of Language Arts and STEM activities as well as Sustainable Innovations and Sustainable Career Pathways, to help guide students toward blue and green jobs to help rebuild the planet.

Our Sustainability Summits are the cornerstone of the Institute’s work with hundreds of multicultural youth around the world who have been trained to become leaders, by taking initiative in their lives, their communities, and their world. We’ve hosted 17 Summits in four locations in two countries: from Vieques, Puerto Rico to Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands to Martha’s Vineyard, and Newport and Bristol, Rhode Island. To respond to the pandemic and expand our reach globally, the Institute transitioned in 2020 to a virtual Summit — which will expand exponentially in 2021 with the launch of the book Stone Soup for the Sustainable World: Life-Changing Stories of Young Everyday Heroes.

Sustainability Summit Speakers inspire young people to deepen their appreciation of science and pursue sustainable career pathways, blue and green companies, and global youth speakers from Stone Soup for the Sustainable World: Life-Changing Stories of Young Everyday Heroes.

Our Sustainability Toolkits

  • Sustainability Is Fun connects young people with engaging, fun, and interactive educational opportunities like virtual sustainability tours; games; inspiring videos; and an educational curriculum. It can be customized by region or state to provide targeted resources.
  • The Sustainable Hawaii Toolkit provides free resources, learning tools, videos, and green jobs in the sustainable workforce and contributes to Hawaii’s goal of 100% Renewable Energy by 2045. Based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, it serves as a global model.
  • Virtual Sustainability Tours The Institute’s YouTube channel features inspiring videos that gives students a firsthand view of the fragility of our ecosystems, and teaches them how they can preserve and protect the planet for future generations.
  • Sustainability-In-Action Projects. Students learn critical thinking and decision-making skills, how to troubleshoot challenges, make engaging presentations, and develop strategies to recruit youth and convince local decision makers.
  • The Sustainability Virtual Field Station is a student-designed, web-based education and research tool with maps, tools, and sites. It is an invaluable resource for connecting young people with real-life science applications – leading to greater collaboration and sharing of data with nonprofits, as well as increased youth success with local/state Science Fairs.
  • The Sustainable Workforce Development Network: Over nearly 25 years, The Institute has grown to become a global leader in designing sustainable workforce development initiatives that prepare multicultural youth to become successful in their lives, their communities and our world. Founded in 1997, The Institute has collaborated with business, education, government, and community leaders to develop workforce development initiatives that build bridges with marginalized youth who face significant inequities in education, employment, and life opportunities. The Institute’s multifaceted educational tools, trainings, and project-based learning programs are designed to build sustainable workforce development initiatives.
  • SustainWDN™ is an online ecosystem that builds bridges between young people, educators, and blue and green companies to build a 21st century blue/green workforce development pipeline. It offers educators and career counselors tools to guide students toward sustainable career pathways, and serves as an economic planning tool for communities to transition to sustainable economy. It helps companies realize a triple bottom line by preparing young people to contribute to a sustainable workforce, and a resilient community.
  • The SustainWDN™ Facilitators Certificate Program gives educators and career counselors the tools they need to prepare and guide their students for the green/blue economy of the 21st century. This engaging resource serves as a network to build bridges between blue employers, educational institutions, community organizations, and young people who are seeking ways to rebuild their communities and the planet. The Institute is partnering with forward-thinking allies across industries, from PhDs and MBAs, to universities, green/blue companies, environmental organizations, educational institutions, technical and vocational programs, and most importantly, young people who are eager to build sustainable future. We are eager to scale this platform to reach more schools and businesses nationwide, so that together we can begin to really make a difference.

Educating Future Leaders

Educators working with multicultural high school students in eight New England communities have found the Stone Soup Leadership Institute’s Stone Soup Model for Building a Sustainable Workforce to be highly effective. Our model guides students as they develop sustainable career pathways. The aim of this model is to help young people develop their careers, as well as to build a strong workforce and a sustainable regional economy. We’ve now been invited to develop a new customized program in conjunction with West Valley College’s Regenerative Agriculture certificate program. This customized program will use the Institute’s educational tools and technology, including SustainWDN™ – and will include a plan for scaling up to community colleges throughout California.

The Challenge

Community colleges are the linchpin for the transition to building sustainable regional economies. However, they are struggling to retain enrollment. Community colleges were hit hard during the pandemic, losing about 351,000 students, a 7.8 % decrease over the previous year. The total loss in community college enrollment since spring 2020 has now reached 827,000 students. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between community colleges and their critical importance of helping to create workforce development pipelines to local businesses.

The Opportunity

Community colleges can take advantage of the next frontier of job growth in the burgeoning sustainable economy. It’s anticipated that the country will be creating roughly 10 million job openings in the transition to a blue-green economy over the next several years. Currently, there are precious few programs in place that are training the next generation of workers. Unless something changes in the infrastructure of workforce development in these blue-green zones the shortfall is expected to be significant. To accelerate this process, the Stone Soup model can serve as a repeatable roadmap for community colleges to adopt statewide and nationally. The systems change that is needed will greatly benefit from the ability of our institutions to effectively lead students towards green jobs and sustainable career pathways.

The Stone Soup Model’s customized program in Regenerative Agriculture Certificate will be facilitated by Chris Cruz, faculty lead for West Valley College’s Park Management program. It includes these existing courses:

  • Regen Ag
  • World Nutrition
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Climate Change
  • Parks Horticulture

⇒ Customize The Institute’s Sustainable Education curriculum to align with the Regenerative Ag certificate.
⇒ Chris Cruz will select 10 stories from the book that he thinks will best inspire his students. This diverse, inclusive, and extensive STEM and solutions-oriented sustainability curriculum includes individualized lesson plans, videos, and skills training via a Sustainable Career Pathways program.
⇒ Build on existing Industry Advisory Boards at community colleges to help with customized curriculum development and employment opportunities.
⇒ San Jose Conservation Corps will nominate outstanding students to participant in this program.

The Stone Soup Model customized program will implement the following strategies:

  • Research needs related to developing a regenerative ag curriculum, identify jobs and better engage employers
  • Identify jobs for certificate graduates
  • Build a customized online portal with book/lesson plans/videos
  • Conduct SustainWDN™ Surveys for businesses: job projections/needs
  • Research Sustainable Career Pathways