Year after year, Americans have seen an increasing number of devastating natural disasters ravaging the economies, infrastructure and health of their local communities.

As a result, Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and higher education institutions have spent the past two decades establishing business units responsible for implementing sustainability strategies, as well as climate change and resilience initiatives. Organizations like the Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO) were established to standardize related practices and advance their occupations.

Plans for a safer future

ACCO isn’t just looking at new occupations coming into place, though. The association also needs to institutionalize climate change into decision-making and planning activities into every industry that critically intersects with climate change. For example, if water infrastructure professionals don’t account for disasters and likely climate scenarios in their design and maintenance, then whole communities could suffer severe disruptions that could ultimately cripple economies and public health.

ACCO’s initiatives have already made real change. In the past two years, 27 Colorado cities and counties have passed laws that require some of their elected officials, city and county managers, and senior staff to undergo annual climate change training. In May, the state of Maryland announced the launch of the nation’s first state-administered climate change academy. Finally, in recent years, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, required every city employee to participate in a two-hour training session provided by the CLEO Institute. Several thousand private sector professionals have leveraged ACCO’s training resources since 2015.

Professional opportunities

Climate change competencies will make you a better job candidate across a number of professions. More than ever, employers are seeing and measuring the value of providing this specific training to their personnel, as well as requiring this knowledge of job candidates. States and credentialing bodies will eventually move to adopt related licensing requirements for architecture, planning and critical infrastructure given their work has a substantial public risk associated with them.

Whether you are in school, or have been in the workforce for decades, you can seize a competitive advantage by developing these competencies. Organizations with exposures to environmental regulation, physical risks and changing markets resulting from climate change will be increasingly looking for you. Universities have already established sustainability, environmental management and climate change programs, and these programs will soon be integrated with programs in business, public policy, architecture, civil engineering and economics.

Do you want a healthy, prosperous and secure America? If yes, you will be among the many Americans building a climate-smart workforce, helping us to overcome this challenge. If not, you might just see your next job opportunity go to someone else.