‘Greenprint’ Report Highlights Community Colleges’ Role in Clean Economy Workforce Development

January 21, 2016

While considerable attention has been paid to the growing role of cleantech jobs in the American economy, there has been less of a focus on the skills it takes to pursue these careers. Greenprint: A Plan to Prepare Community College Students for Careers in the Clean Economy, a new report released by The Greenforce Initiative, a partnership between the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and Jobs for the Future, provides recommendations on how education can help students can gain better access to clean economy jobs, strengthen communities, and address environmental impacts.

The Greenprint uses definitions from the Brookings report Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment for both the clean economy and sustainability skills. The clean economy is defined as “economic activity – measured in terms of establishments and the jobs associated with them – that produces goods and services with an environmental benefit or adds value to such products using skills or technologies that are uniquely applied to those products.” Sustainability skills are defined as “the enhanced or new tasks, competencies, knowledge, or worker requirements necessary to fill clean economy occupations that produce or add value to goods and services with an environmental benefit.”

As the clean economy in the U.S. continues to grow, the Greenprint notes there is an increased need for sustainability skills such as systems thinking, problem solving, and those encompassed within STEM. The report also suggests that increasing the capacity of community colleges to incorporate clean economy skills can help address several high-level workforce and environmental policy priorities such as addressing climate change, growing the clean economy, closing the achievement gap, and strengthening job-driven training for middle-skill careers.

Greenprint’s main emphasis is on illustrating effective programs that are being implemented in community colleges around the United States that provide graduates with the sustainability skills needed for the clean economy, as well as recommendations to help scale these programs. Of the 1,200 two-year colleges in the U.S., almost 40 percent have instituted some level of educational initiatives that support building sustainability skills, according to previous NWF research. This includes participation in programs such as the Department of Labor funded GreenWays project, which supports employer-led workforce partnerships, and the American Association of Community Colleges’ SEED program, which offers members an online platform for sharing sustainability skills curricula. Furthermore, community college systems in Virginia, North Carolina, and Illinois have led systemwide approaches to incorporating these skills into career and technical education.

The report concludes with recommendations for seven key stakeholder groups that can assist with scaling up sustainability skill efforts. These stakeholders include: presidential leadership; federal leadership; state and local governments; employers and industry associations; community colleges; intermediaries, unions, and community-based organizations; and, students and student organizations.

Read Greenprint: A Plan to Prepare Community College Students for Careers in the Clean Economy here: http://www.nwf.org/~/media/PDFs/Greenforce-Initiative/Greenprint%20Report%201816.ashx

cleantech, workforce