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Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the May/June 2011 edition of APPA’s Facilities Manager magazine. The issue focuses on community colleges. APPA has allowed CC Times readers to view the full article for free.
The green economy and green jobs are often discussed as if they are the same thing. It is important to distinguish them. The green economy is a larger system or content that will drive a variety of changes in our society, one of which will relate to workforce migration and green job growth.
The relatively slow progress in producing new green jobs is largely the result of our collective failure to ensure that enough of the right conditions, incentives and drivers are in place at once before pressing forward with any one of the key conditions. In some communities, for example, colleges have done their part in training new solar technicians only to find that jobs are not there for students because of a lack of regulatory incentives and consumer priorities.
Three community college case studiesIn other communities, political and institutional leaders have pressed for green policy/regulation, still only to find that local businesses and the general community is not educated adequately to support and/or enact them successfully. In still other communities, businesses have provided new green services only to find that consumers and institutions do not have the right capabilities or training to change their practices fast enough, or they are unwilling to make the upfront investment regardless of the guaranteed good payback. The invaluable lesson to take from these frontier failures is how crucial it is to build up enough of the right conditions before pressing too far forward into any one area.
For the community college sector to play a meaningful role in driving the emerging green economy to produce green jobs for our students, we must acknowledge and embrace the interdependence that exists between these efforts. If we continue to view our role only by way of providing training for a green workforce that may or may not be in demand, we will risk setting our students up for failure.
A case for high performance community college buildings Initiatives such as the Illinois Green Economy Network—a partnership of the 48 community colleges in Illinois—are emerging within the community college sector to implement a broader role in transforming communities through: market innovation and demonstration, community values, education and training, financial investment, policy and regulation. At the national level, the American Association of Community Colleges recently launched its SEED Center, an online platform for sharing curriculum for the green economy, igniting a new level of national collaboration among community colleges.
I firmly believe that the community college is one of America’s greatest inventions. The two things that stand out among their many favorable attributes are their commitment to building great communities and their ability to foster meaningful and production collaboration to the benefit of all. These attributes will be the foundation of enormous success as our community college sector takes its rightful place as a central player in the nation’s emerging green economy. It is a great honor to work with them.
Sharp is the founding executive director of the Illinois Green Economy Network.
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