Given their role in building a flexible workforce, in preparing students for long-term career options, and their strong ties to business and industry, community colleges are positioned to be at the very heart of this new green economy movement. Hundreds of our colleges are already training workers for careers in areas such as energy management, renewable energy production, and green building; and many others perform extensive community outreach to educate local businesses and the general public about the importance of sustainability practices as a means for building the industry itself.
However, there is no question that more can be done at a national level to directly support colleges in ramping up quality green workforce development programs.
The SEED Center (Sustainability Education and Economy Development)–officially launching October 10th—is a landmark effort by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and ecoAmerica to empower the nation’s 1,200 two-year colleges in the critical task of preparing an educated workforce with the skills needed to succeed in sustainable, clean tech and other green economy jobs.
SEED offers promising practices, curriculum resources, industry and employment information, and much more, with additional resource support for program implementation and faculty development, all for free (and all expertly curated by a Technical Advisory Group of leading industry, government, and higher education green experts). An online sharing environment, including discussion boards and a wiki, provides the opportunity for faculty to share practices, ultimately contributing to the continual growth and refinement of the resources offered.
The focus of the Web site is currently on five industry sectors: solar, wind, energy efficiency, green building and sustainable education. Future plans include a look at sustainable agriculture, geothermal, smart grid technology, resource conservation, and alternative fuels – industries we know are important to colleges and workforce boards across the country.
As many of you know, there is a vast, unsorted amount of information on green jobs and training practices out there, and SEED aims to cut through the clutter to make sense of it for colleges and training providers.
More than 300 community college presidents - over one third of the AACC members - have already signed on to the initiative, far ahead of expectations for this stage of the program’s development.
Given the overlap of our audience and DOL/ETA’s stakeholders, the SEED Center is designed to work in conjunction with the Workforce3one Web site’s Green Community of Practice. We will work hard to share resources and information between the two.
We urge you to explore
the free SEED Center, although the Web site is only a foundation. AACC will continue
to support colleges in integrating green concepts into workforce training,
continuing education, and technical programs, preparing students to compete in
this industry. We believe that community colleges will not only be
central in providing a skilled workforce but will be out front in working with
businesses to create the jobs themselves.
Michelle Melton is a Research Analyst with the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
It seems like it should be simple—just count the number of people in green jobs. Yet getting an accurate picture of how many green jobs are in the economy can actually be extremely difficult. This difficulty arises because traditionally, when states and the federal government count jobs, they rely on reports by employers. These employers report the number of jobs, which are then grouped into a pre-identified and coded industry or occupation. That is, the government surveys all firms, and assigns them a code—a welder has a code, as does the manufacturing industry (it gets much more detailed than that), and the government counts how many welders there are, and how many firms that engage in manufacturing. After coding, we can say that there are X number of welders, or Y number of manufacturing firms employing Z number of people in all types of occupations.
Coding is not perfect, and sometimes jobs or industries do not fit neatly into a code. In that case, it either gets made to fit into a code, or becomes ‘not elsewhere classified.’ Coding inherently reflects the past, not the present—new codes are assigned every ten years, and even then only when a minimum threshold of change has been met. Still, the entire code rarely undergoes a dramatic change.
What makes counting green jobs particularly difficult is that green jobs do not have a specific code. Currently, it is impossible to just make a new code, since green jobs are found within already existing codes and there aren’t enough specifically green jobs to create a new code (which can’t be done right now anyway). The trouble is, not everyone or everything in a certain code is green. There can be green carpenters, as well as non-green carpenters, both counted in the carpenter code, and manufacturing firms that make products, while other manufacturing firms make the same products, but green. If we know that there are six hundred detergent manufacturers in the U.S., but that’s as specific as the data gets, how can we know how many of those six hundred are green? What if three hundred produce both green and non-green products—are all three hundred establishments and all the workers who work there therefore green? From the occupational standpoint, an architect may design both green and non-green buildings. There are many judgment calls to make.
Therefore, we can’t just assume everyone in a particular code is green, but we know that some are. Counting all jobs within a certain industry or occupation as green would be wildly inaccurate, so we have to find ways to ‘filter’ the green jobs from the non-green jobs within the existing code.
As stated, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as well as state agencies, count jobs based on industry and occupation, not whether a job is green. But given the complexities described above, if we were to count all jobs in an industry or occupation that might be green, how could we reliably count how many green jobs exist? Or project future occupational and industry demand?
A few different approaches to the problem of ‘filtering’ have been used. BLS and the Department of Commerce (DOC) have come up with a similar strategy (BLS methodology is not yet finalized). Both apportion green jobs to an industry category based on revenue (unless an establishment produces only a single service or product and it is green). Total revenue will be based either at the level of establishment (BLS) or of an industry’s green products and services (DOC). The proportion of green revenue to non-green revenue is used to estimate the proportion of green jobs in an industry. For example, if for every $100 of an establishment/product’s revenue, $10 is a green product/service or percentage of establishment revenue, then 10% of revenue is green. The same proportion transfers over to employment. Therefore, for every 100 workers in an industry, 10 are green workers.
However, no filtering method is perfect—this count may not accurately reflect employment. The cost of products and services may be because of the inputs, not only the labor used, skewing the employment figures. For instance, lithium batteries may be more expensive than lead or alkaline batteries because of the technological and resource costs, not necessarily labor costs. However, in other cases, labor and not inputs may be the determining factor of increased cost and this would show up in the employment numbers.
Many states have counted green jobs by directly surveying employers to determine green jobs. This approach was taken by Washington State, the first state to produce a green jobs report, as well as by Oregon, Michigan, Missouri, and a variety of others. There are several disadvantages to this method, the primary one being problems related to self-reporting. Employers may not be in a position to report on how many green jobs are at an establishment, or determine whether a job is green or not (even if given a definition).
Currently, therefore, there is no straightforward way to accurately count green jobs within the current coding systems and, for better or worse, these are the coding systems we have. New concepts take time to integrate into old systems and ways of coding the world; until then, counting green jobs will continue to be difficult.
Industry competency models are living, dynamic documents designed to evolve as skill requirements change. ETA, in collaboration with industry partners, recently completed an update of the Advanced Manufacturing Competency Model. The updated model contains green-focused competency blocks including Sustainable Practices and Sustainable and Green Manufacturing. It can be viewed now on the Competency Model Clearinghouse.
Editor's Note: Todd Cohen is our guest blogger from Sustainability Initiatives, American Association of Community Colleges.
Across the country, in an effort to better prepare workers for quality jobs in the green economy, unique partnerships are forming between community colleges and regional councils. In southeast Arizona, a two-year U.S. Department of Labor Pathways Out of Poverty grant being managed by the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) is being used to strengthen this partnership most notably around soft skills training for an array of renewable energy and energy efficiency occupations.
The SouthEastern Arizona Government’s Association (SEAGO) region has been hit hard by the current recession with unemployment rates as high as 16% in many parts of their service area. SEAGO used its strong training partnership with Cochise College, and its strong satellite campuses throughout the region, to develop flexible and responsive training programs aligned to the needs of the Pathways program.
SEAGO Pathways staff worked directly with the College’s Center for Lifelong Learning to develop a two day soft skills workshop that has become mandatory for all SEAGO Pathways enrollees. The workshop provides one full day of job readiness training and one day of computer training where participants produce a resume of their experience. In addition to providing the participants with needed career skills, the mandatory requirement allows SEAGO to assure a potential employer that a Pathways applicant can perform basic tasks in serving customers appropriately in a business environment. To date, over one hundred individuals have taken the workshop, and more are planned for the coming months. Going forward, the Center will continue to offer trainings in Hazardous Materials Handling and Heavy Equipment Operation, and is exploring the possibility of offering solar training in the near future in response to specific industry demand within the region.
Because some applicants come into the program lacking a GED, SEAGO also engaged the Cochise College Adult Education Department to develop classes specifically for Pathways participants. This is creating a sense of camaraderie among the enrollees and allows the Pathways GED classes to provide another opportunity for learning about the green career trainings they will receive upon graduation. Instructors weave green vocabulary into lessons by including commonly used renewable energy and green building industry terms into word lists. They also include word problems with “green” scenarios and job site math to expose enrollees to as much relevant information as possible about their new career pathway.
“The partnerships the program has built have been terrific,” said Randy Heiss, SEAGO’s Executive Director. “Not only has the program served to address the needs of Pathways participants, this partnership has provided the College the opportunity to present trainings that it might not otherwise have been able to offer.”
Curriculum and pathways that emerge from this initiative will be disseminated through various channels including the American Association of Community College’s Sustainability Education and Economic Development (SEED) Center which was launched in October. Please visit www.theSeedcenter.org for more information.
About this Initiative
The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC), in partnership with ICF Macro and Monster Worldwide, received a two-year ARRA funded Pathways Out of Poverty grant from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to develop job training and placement strategies for green jobs in four U.S. regions, in Arizona, Texas and Ohio.
The United States Department of Labor in conjunction with the Departments of Education and Energy are collaborating in their efforts to link the United States workforce to jobs, training and education opportunities funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act). The goal of this collaboration is to efficiently and effectively advance existing and future training and education programs; avoid duplication of effort; fill skill deficiencies; optimize matching of training programs with employment needs; provide career ladders, lattices and pathways for American workers; and provide for and build a skilled workforce in the clean energy and energy efficiency sectors. Each Department is committed to collaborating in this effort that will ultimately benefit the U.S. economy and its workforce both today and over the long-term.
As part of this effort, the Department of Labor is encouraging the public workforce system to coordinate with its state and local partners to link dislocated workers, under-employed workers and first time workers to the training and educational opportunities funded through the Recovery Act; specifically, the Department of Energy investments. Likewise, you are encouraged to link employers and local industries to the training and educational programs funded by the Recovery Act as a source for a reliable and skilled workforce. To explore possible connections between a myriad of federal agency investments, please see the attached document for a complete listing.
For a complete listing of Recovery Act Investments, please visit the Recovery Act Website. In the resources section of the Green Jobs CoP you can find the Excel file, Recovery Act Grants – Department of Labor and Energy.
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