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  • Alicia Sigmon

From Beautiful China to Global Impact: Recruiting for Sustainability Programs

Climate change is undeniable. We see it in our hometowns and sweeping across the world. Last year, 77 countries including China experienced the hottest year on record. In June 2024, countries around the world again faced dangerous heat waves. China faced droughts and record-high temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the north with heavy rain in the south. Facing states of emergency in both the north and south, Chinese students are directly experiencing the effects of climate change. With this increased awareness and personal experience comes the increased desire to make a positive impact on the environment.


View from above of trees and a river in Xinjiang, China
With extreme weather becoming more frequent, young people are increasingly driven to protect the beauty around them | Xinjiang, China | Photo by Weichao Deng on Unsplash

 


Background


Sustainability is a rapidly growing sector with an increasing demand for skilled professionals. Chinese students who want a rewarding and profitable career near home or abroad can become the sustainability experts all countries need. To recruit Chinese students into sustainability programs, it's important to understand sustainability policies, education, and mindsets in China. This background provides context for tailoring recruitment strategies and highlighting how international sustainability programs can support Chinese students in their goals.



China’s Path to Sustainable Development


In January 2024, China introduced a strategic framework for its Beautiful China policy, laying out guidelines and development goals to create a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future. One of the key goals is to reach peak emissions by 2030 and then be carbon neutral by 2060. To get people and businesses aligned with these sustainability goals, the policy also promotes eco-friendly business practices, encouraging companies to invest in green projects and follow environmental standards.


In alignment with these goals, China is actively increasing its renewable energy goals and is the leading country for solar energy. By significantly expanding its capacity for solar panels, China is positioning emerging technologies as the core of its economic growth strategy, so there will continue to be strong opportunities for young people to work in renewable energy and sustainability. As China moves forward with its Beautiful China policy, it is laying the foundation for a thriving job market for sustainability professionals.



Sustainable Developments in Chinese Education


Education, critical thinking, and collaboration are critical for engaging young people in protecting the planet. While China has taken strong steps toward improving the country’s overall sustainability, it is falling behind in sustainability education before college. As of 2021, a research team was working on a curriculum to implement nationally with the goal of running a pilot program at a school in Shenzhen, China in the spring of 2023. There has been no further news of the pilot program, but programs like this are a positive step toward enhancing sustainability education throughout the country.


Like in many Western countries, China incorporates environmental education into other classes instead of having a class dedicated to sustainability. Focusing heavily on exam scores further pushes sustainability education to the side as students and teachers are primarily focused on the contents of exams. In sustainability education, it’s critical to think about cause and effect, question the way society works, or actively seek solutions to climate change. With this in mind, many Chinese students have not had the opportunity to think critically about climate change or sustainability initiatives in school.  



Chinese Consumer Data


As a society, there is a bigger push for sustainable products in China and consumers are aware of the environmental impacts of their purchases. According to Deloitte’s consumer study, 60% of Chinese consumers believe the core of sustainable consumption is “saving resources and reducing waste.” Deloitte also found that Gen Z when compared to older Chinese generations like Gen X had more awareness of sustainability concepts. When considering a sustainable purchase, 47% of Gen Z prioritize natural materials and renewable resources, whereas 48% of Gen X focus on recyclable or degradable packaging. As younger generations learn more about the environment and see the negative impacts of climate change, they are increasingly interested in careers that tackle global environmental issues.

 

Solar panels viewed from above
As businesses invest in renewable energy and green technologies, young people will have increasingly more opportunities to work in sustainability | Taipei, Taiwan | Photo by Anders J on Unsplash

Recruiting Chinese Students into Sustainability Programs


Chinese students need to know that their studies will lead them to a successful and profitable career, and a career in environmental protection and sustainability can do just that, but they might not be aware of the career options. To help Chinese students understand the benefits of a sustainability career and degree, emphasize the following during recruitment:


  • Sustainability Degree Options: There are many different degrees centered on sustainability and the environment, and Chinese students may be unaware of the opportunities that align with their interests: Environmental Engineering, Environmental Policy Analysts, Sustainable Urban Planners, Green Building Architects, Marine Biologists, Sustainable Agriculture… there are endless opportunities across every possible field of interest. Let students know what opportunities exist at your school, and share success stories from previous students working to protect the environment.

  • Sustainability Research or Work-Study Opportunities: Highlight opportunities for students to learn and make an impact through research or work-study programs. Universities offering hands-on experiences such as internships with environmental organizations, research projects on sustainability working with experts in the field, and participation in green campus initiatives can attract students eager to make a difference.

  • Sustainability Experts: Emphasize the expertise and accomplishments of your faculty in the field of sustainability. Showcase faculty members who are leading groundbreaking research or are involved in significant environmental projects. This can include professors who are published authors in sustainability journals, leaders in international environmental organizations, or advisors to governmental bodies on environmental policy.

  • Positive Impacts from Alumni or Current Students: Students studying careers related to sustainability or the environment can expect a rewarding career making a positive impact on nature and people’s lives. To show how prospective students can succeed at your school, include testimonials from alumni or current students who have made significant contributions to environmental conservation and sustainability efforts globally. Chinese students highly value the opinions of their peers, so including testimonials directly from students will help Chinese students develop a connection to your programs and school.



Five people standing in the grass looking at the Minneapolis skyline
Sustainable Urban Planning students enjoying the beauty of nature and the city | Minneapolis, Minnesota | Photo by Spencer Bergen on Unsplash



























Case Study: How Sustainability Programs Bridge China and the United States


Chinese students are looking for something unique and impactful, and the University of Minnesota is a great example of such an opportunity. Young people are increasingly engaged in climate discussions, and international discussions help open students’ minds to different ways of thinking.


Students from the University of Minnesota are actively tackling climate change by joining forces with students in China. The university’s China Center, with offices in Minneapolis and Beijing, hosts an annual China Bridge Challenge, where students from both countries work together to find innovative solutions for global issues. This year’s challenge was “Strategies for an Evolving U.S.-China Relationship: Resiliency in the Face of Climate Change.” With students from both countries working together to tackle big problems, they’re learning to work together and synthesize research into solutions that can help both countries. One student said that she is “confident these competencies will benefit my future academic and career pursuits.” Chinese students care a lot about student connections, and hearing from students about their positive experiences in your programs increases the likelihood that they will be interested in your school.


Programs like the China Bridge Challenge not only encourage young people to think critically and collaboratively but also prepare them to become global leaders in sustainability. Highlighting such unique and impactful opportunities in your recruitment process is critical. By showcasing environmental study programs, research opportunities, and work-study initiatives, you can demonstrate to Chinese students how they can use their passion and talent to build a better world. Ensuring that sustainability competitions, degrees, courses, and opportunities are prominently featured will help attract environmentally conscious Chinese students eager to make a difference.

 


Conclusion


The demand for sustainability professionals is growing, and Chinese students have the opportunity to become the experts their country and the world needs. By promoting robust sustainability programs and collaborative opportunities, universities can attract environmentally conscious Chinese students who are eager to make a difference.


Highlighting environmentally-focused degrees, research opportunities, field experts, and unique programs like the University of Minnesota's China Bridge Challenge will showcase the value and impact of a sustainability-focused education. These efforts will not only help universities recruit passionate and talented students but also contribute to the broader goal of global environmental sustainability.


As more natural disasters occur each year and temperatures continue to rise, the need for skilled sustainability professionals becomes even more urgent. Universities that embrace and promote sustainability programs will position themselves as leaders in the field. By promoting your sustainability programs, you can ensure that Chinese students understand their options and inspire them to pursue impactful and rewarding careers in sustainability.



 


ABOUT EDUFAIR CHINA


eduFair China is a free website and app connecting Chinese students with international institutions and first-hand resources about studying abroad. We aim to give students a more empowered approach to international education so that they can succeed during their journey abroad.


Our platform features more than 1,200 organizations and reaches millions of students across China.


Click here to learn more about getting your institution online and how eduFair can help you reach students in China.

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