In communities hit hardest by the pandemic, economic recovery has been stalled by a disparity between available jobs, expectations from employers, and the experience and resources available to jobseekers. This is especially true in New York City, where twice as many people are unemployed compared to the U.S. average.
There are a few bright spots. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the occupations projected to grow the most between now and 2030 are in the green sector. These occupations have also shown promising wages—in 2021, green sector salaries exceeded the national average annual income by 23 percent.
The HOPE Program is a New York City-based nonprofit that’s bridging the gap between unemployment in historically low-income, environmentally neglected communities and career opportunities in the burgeoning green sector.
HOPE empowers New Yorkers to build sustainable futures through comprehensive training, jobs, advancement and lifelong career support. The organization serves adults facing significant barriers to employment, including histories of substance use, homelessness, criminal legal involvement, and limited educational attainment.
While most of their programs are focused on green sector skills—like high-efficiency HVAC maintenance, green construction, and landscaping—they are all rooted in core, essential skills like communication, problem-solving, and time management that set job seekers up for long-term success in any sector. HOPE’s participants also receive wages for their hands-on training, individualized job search assistance, and lifelong job retention, advancement, and wellness support.
As a result of this unique model, HOPE achieves employment outcomes among the strongest in the workforce development industry: 79 percent of those who graduated from the program last year have secured jobs. Historically, at least 80 percent of employed HOPE graduates remain employed for at least a year, a common indicator of long-term connectivity to the workforce. In the past year alone, HOPE’s graduates earned a total of $17.1 million, a direct investment in communities that have long faced cycles of poverty.
Beyond financial outcomes, HOPE contributes directly to environmental sustainability. The nonprofit’s green jobs programs are based in the South Bronx, a neighborhood that is home to many of their participants and has long faced significant environmental challenges as a result of overtrucking, toxic air pollution from local power plants, and a lack of green space. Starting in their classes, and extending into their careers, HOPE participants are working to change this.
HOPE’s investment goes beyond New York City’s financial future. Their programs are devoted to addressing environmental resiliency in historically neglected neighborhoods. By providing community members with training that supports successful, long-term careers in climate change mitigation and environmental restoration, HOPE has created a space for those most affected by environmental injustice to make a difference.