ccDaily > Community colleges are key partners in 'green' projects, industries

Community colleges are key partners in 'green' projects, industries

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from an article in the October/November edition of the Community College Journal, the bimonthly magazine of the American Association Community Colleges (AACC). All employees of AACC member colleges can access the complete article and the entire issue here.
The emerging green economy will create not just jobs, but—if done right—career opportunities across the U.S. as green manufacturing, green products and green services fuel demand for workers at all skill levels.
Sixty-one percent of the members of the Association of Energy Engineers report a growing shortage of qualified professionals in the field, and 37 percent say they plan to retire in the next 10 years. According to the Center for American Progress, clean energy will be one of the largest industries in the country by 2020, valued as high as $2.3 trillion per year.
At the center of this unprecedented opportunity are the nation’s nearly 1,200 community and technical colleges. Good work is already under way in several states. For example, there is great potential for statewide impact in North Carolina, home to a number of high-tech and biotech firms. Through the Code Green Initiative, the North Carolina Community College System—with 58 colleges and more than 800,000 students—is facilitating a statewide summit to raise awareness about best practices, benefits, and opportunities associated with creating green career pathways.
Jobs for the Future and the National Wildlife Federation are collaborating in the Greenforce Initiative, a two-year project to spur green-jobs education, innovation, and training on community college campuses.
This potential is evident at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC), with six campuses serving the Charlotte area. The college created the state’s first sustainability technologies degree, and the program is now available at all 58 community colleges. The core of CPCC’s “greening” is the Center for Sustainability, which has established workforce partnerships with local employers. Through these partnerships, CPCC designs courses to address specific training needs, putting students in a position to compete for jobs local employers are eager to fill.
Ernie McLaney, executive director of CPCC’s Center for Sustainability, has witnessed how several campus departments have come together on green projects.
“Construction is doing green building, automotive is working with the battery systems, and even early childhood is getting our children to understand the importance of getting out into the natural world,” McLaney says.
In Texas, the Alamo Colleges system is a key partner in the Mission Verde Center. Located at a former middle school, the center offers training, technology demonstrations, and environmental information to residents of the city’s economically depressed West Side. The Alamo Colleges collaborated with the local school district, youth centers, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, and two local utility companies to establish the center as a hub for green and community economic development.
With a 60 percent dropout rate and unemployment at 15 percent, San Antonio’s West Side is in dire need of economic redevelopment. Through the Alamo Colleges’ Green Jobs Training Institute, residents have access to training in weatherization, green construction and plumbing, solar power systems, and installation of smart-grid systems that conserve energy.
“You need to link your operational greening with your academic curriculum,” emphasizes Victoria Cooper, director of environmental technology at Wilbur Wright College (WWC), one of the City Colleges of Chicago in Illinois. “You need to walk the talk. It’s the integration of operations and education that makes successful programs.”
WWC, which launched its campus greening program in 1994, has upgraded lighting and HVAC systems to be more efficient, installed solar/thermal panels that heat water in the science building and cafeterias, and mounted solar panels on the parking garage to supply electricity to the campus grid. The college also created an arboretum and mapped more than 600 trees on campus.
WWC also is a founding member of the Chicagoland Green Collar Jobs Initiative, which explores and identifies employment and job-training opportunities that prepare low-skilled workers for emerging green jobs. The initiative, which focuses on green-collar jobs as a pathway out of poverty, develops career paths toward family-sustaining careers.
Michigan’s Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) is the first college in the nation to offer a fully certified wind safety program, developed in collaboration with corporate partners. Julie Parks, director of workforce training at GRCC, says partnerships with employers are crucial to the college’s green programs.
“We have some pioneers in green here on the west side of the state, and we are hoping to maximize the relationships with them,” Parks says.
A variety of greening projects are already yielding benefits on the GRCC campus. A roof garden on the Applied Technology Center supplies produce to a campus restaurant where culinary students receive training. A porous parking lot—GRCC was the first college in the state to install one—helps filter water back into the water table. An entrepreneurial student group is developing a water-dispensing system that will enable the college to offset a recent ban on bottled water.
In addition, the Michigan Community College Association has built a network focused on developing green-jobs training programs and green energy. And the Western Michigan Higher Education Consortium—consisting of nine community colleges and four four-year colleges—is coordinating joint curriculum development, the sharing of equipment and other resources, and work with economic developers to recruit businesses in support of energy efficiency and green jobs.
Coyle is vice president of education and training at the National Wildlife Federation. Flynn is vice president of building economic opportunity at Jobs for the Future.