Mindy Feldbaum is the Senior Director of Workforce Development Programs for the Academy for Educational Development (AED).
With the emerging transition to a low-carbon and sustainable economy, community colleges are on the forefront of the growing momentum for action on climate change, sustainability, and green workforce development. Through my writing of the publication, Going Green: The Vital Role of Community Colleges in Building A Sustainable Futures and Green Workforce
, I witnessed firsthand many examples of community colleges across the country taking a leadership role to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and promote environmental stewardship, using campuses as living laboratories, integrating sustainability principles into curricula, and educating and training workers for new, reoriented, or emerging jobs in the green economy. Of even greater influence, are the millions of students that will develop the necessary skills and knowledge through community college education and training programs to lead the country's transition to a low-carbon future.
I believe that community colleges can serve as the perfect gateway to good green jobs, particularly because many of the jobs that are currently, or predicted to be in demand in the green economy will require more than a high school diploma and less than a bachelor's degree. Charged with meeting the workforce demands of a 21st century economy, colleges today are modifying existing certificate and associate degree programs and courses to integrate green skills for a variety of sectors including construction, manufacturing and energy, creating new and expanded green career pathways, working with employers to redefine skills and competencies needed by the green workforce, and supporting professional development in these evolving occupational fields.
Despite these exciting and innovative times, community colleges cannot prepare and educate a green workforce alone, particularly at a time when colleges are grappling with growing enrollment each year, and at the same time, facing severe budget cuts. I truly believe that the success of community colleges in the green economy will be built on strategic partnerships that include industry, the workforce system, labor unions, economic development organizations, K-12 education system, universities, and community-based organizations. These partnerships will allow community college leaders to contribute to the green economic and workforce development strategy and vision in the region and state, leverage and align public and private funding sources, build on existing infrastructures and resources, and work with state, local, and national policymakers and leaders to create policies that support a greener future.
The green strategic partnerships that are forming or have emerged in recent years are critical, and just as important, is having the information about how and why these partnerships work and the value they add, particularly when linked to performance and sustainability. I would love to begin a discussion on the unique partnerships and the challenges and opportunities they bring in the green education and training arena, how students/participants benefit from these partnerships, and how organizations document success.