Supporting community colleges in educating for and building a green economy
AACC: American Association of Community Colleges
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Success Stories

A number of community colleges have emerged as real innovators in the field. Their innovation lies in the way these schools have partnered with industry, engaged special populations, created innovative and dynamic training and/or degree programs responsive to local workforce needs, or taken advantage of their natural surroundings. Explore these practices and see what you may discover for your own community.

If your college has an remarkable green story tied to workforce development to share, contact us.

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Review Success Stories in following topics:

Community Engagement: Colleges that serving as a catalyst in moving their community toward building a sustainable region and an economically vibrant green economy.
Program Design & Delivery: Colleges preparing a qualified, green-skilled workforce by facilitating the delivery of high quality programs based on industry needs.
Strategic Partnerships: Colleges forming the necessary partnerships to advance campus sustainability goals and green workforce development programs.
Governance: Colleges that have personnel, policies, plans, resources, and practices in place that reflect a commitment to sustainability and green-focused education and training.

Community Engagement

As winner of the 2012 Green Genome Award in the category of Community Engagement, Delta College (MI) plays an integral role in the social, environmental, and economic health of Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay region. Delta has collaborated with community partners on numerous alternative transportation activities and is providing alternative energy training and engaging employers to create alternative energy solutions that is recognized throughout the community.
Greenfield Community College (GCC), nestled in the predominantly rural Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, has a commitment to sustainability leadership and education that is pervasive throughout the entire institution. As a result, the college engages a large network of small businesses that thrive on hiring GCC students, its faculty inspires and educates both their students and the community at large, and its green campus doubles as a living lab.
The Hocking College Energy Institute (HCEI) combines hands-on training for students with research and commercialization services for businesses—building a skilled workforce while helping to bring clean energy products to market. In the Appalachian region, where the manufacturing base has severely eroded, this initiative creates a crucial opportunity for significant economic development.
Confronted with decreased employment opportunities, the loss of family farms, and the closure of the region’s largest employer, Loring Air Force Base, higher education and business partners in a rural region in Maine understand that active collaboration is the only way to survive. With Northern Maine Community College (NMCC) at the center, their partnership is building an economy anchored in alternative energy with a workforce prepared for technological shifts. And, the College is set to build a world-class workforce with pivotal green industry skills.
San Diego Miramar College (SDMC), as part of California Community College’s Advanced Transportation Technology and Energy Initiative (ATTE), worked with both governmental agencies and industry members to spearhead a comprehensive approach to training technicians on new advanced fuel and technology vehicles.
Students in the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) are gaining sustainable skills that will create a green future for the state. The 16 technical colleges are making great strides and providing leadership in sustainable practices, facilities and programs and are also infusing sustainability into many traditional occupational programs.

Program Design & Delivery

Alfred State College (ASC) maintains an excellent college-wide commitment to sustainability and green programming. Before adding new programs or revising existing curriculum, “green focused” modules are first embedded into program courses and outcomes allowing college faculty and staff to assess need for additional offerings and/or degrees based on regional workforce needs and student interest.
Starting with a training request from a local renewable energy company in 2005, Austin Community College (ACC) developed the first course in solar technology in Texas, with its Continuing Education department leading the charge.
Bellevue College has taken exceptional leadership in climate change and sustainability through education, innovation and a collaborative approach between students, faculty and staff. Sustainability initiatives occur inside the classroom, through student programs and across campus, and the college is working to integrate sustainability across the curriculum. The college also prepares students to reach beyond campus and advocate for sustainability and climate policy. It is these innovative initiatives centered on students and cross-college and community collaboration efforts that make Bellevue College a leader on climate and sustainability practices and programming.
In a community with a severely declining economy and a growing worker demand for training—and faced with a tightening institutional budget—Bucks County Community College (PA) (BCCC) has transformed its technical training programs around a growing renewable energy sector.
As the winner of the 2012 Green Genome Award in the category of Program Design and Delivery, Central Carolina Community College's (NC) holistic approach to renewable energy, energy efficiency, resource conservation, and entrepreneurship has been the hallmark of its green education and training programs.
A small rural school located in north-central Oregon, Columbia Gorge Community College (CGCC) has emerged as the lead training provider for wind energy manufacturers and technicians across two states.
In an effort to address extreme poverty and the challenges facing entry-level workers, the Community College of Philadelphia created pathways to rapid employment by recruiting, training and placing qualified veterans, unemployed workers, ex-offenders and local residents in entry-level jobs in the green manufacturing, and construction and weatherization industries. The College is doing so with stunning success using key program strategies – industry partner collaboration, industry relevant program content, and comprehensive student support.
In Connecticut, two USDOL grant-funded Initiatives have worked together to create new STEM-based credit certificates in sustainability and alternative and renewable energy fields and a focus on directing students into STEM education and careers. The initiatives address workforce readiness in addition to foundational and technical education, based upon industry recommendations.
The Kenosha region of Wisconsin is recognized as one of the nation’s top high-tech economies—thanks in large part to its strong network of area colleges and universities with a history of performing advanced research and world-class training.
As winner of the 2012 Green Genome Award in the overall category, Hillsborough Community College (FL) has a record of environmental stewardship that dates back to the earliest days of the college’s existence. The college embarked on a variety of activities focused on sustainability and the development of a green workforce, including building strategic partnerships and engaging the community along the way.
Over the past four years, the region has cultivated multibillion-dollar investments from wind, solar, and utilities companies, making Kern County a national hub for clean energy job growth and creating strong demand for workers with updated and, in some cases, entirely new skill sets.
When it comes to developing new green job training programs and re-engineering traditional education curricula to promote sustainability, Los Angeles Trade-Technical College (LATTC) is a national leader. And the college has achieved this while serving a diverse and disadvantaged student body.
In response to dynamic industry needs, Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) created four new advisory boards for emerging green energy programs. During industry partner meetings, employers shared their concern about serious gaps in skills training for potential workers and employees. At the same time, college and community leaders continued to struggle with high school dropout rates of 50% for MATC’s service area. In part, to address these problems, college leaders and faculty members developed innovative transitional courses to provide students with the preparatory course work needed to complete GED courses or to move into green certificate and degree programs with the appropriate math and science course work.
Long before most U.S. higher education institutions awakened to the concerns of global warming and the prospects for renewable and sustainable energy industries, Oakland Community College (MI) had a fully developed environmental systems technology curriculum.
In regions where green jobs have not materialized as quickly as projected, some colleges are refining workforce education programs to promote sustainable practice as a competitive advantage for students. At Red Rocks Community College (RRCC) and the Rocky Mountain Education Center, the leadership team developed a dynamic program review process to ensure that workforce education training meets the needs of industry, students, and incumbent workers.
Cultivating sustainable agriculture and cooking—economically producing healthy food that does not harm the environment—is an increasingly viable job creation strategy across the country. At Seattle Central Community College (SCCC), the Seattle Culinary Academy—one of the oldest in the country—has been vital to building the city’s sustainable foods industry.
For more than 20 years, St. Louis Community College (STLCC) has been at the forefront of innovation for sustainability—integrating sustainable practices in the college’s physical learning spaces, academic programs, and civic engagement.
South Carolina’s Technical College of the Lowcountry (TCL) serves a large and very diverse community alongside the Intracoastal Waterway - an energy-poor region with high electricity demand.

Strategic Partnerships

Cape Cod Community College (CCCC) has become one of the nation’s leading—and most vocal—colleges in promoting and integrating sustainability and green practices through all campus operations and technical training programs.
Cedar Valley College (CVC), one of the seven colleges of the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD), aligned with the district strategic sustainability goal to “promote practices supporting sustainability including social, environmental and economic vitality”, realizing that internal and external partnerships are critical to the advancement of the sustainability agenda. Moreover, in these tough economic times, working to achieve financial savings without impacting the quality of student learning experiences and services, the district colleges have utilized sustainability principles in facilities planning to gain cost savings while engaging students in their sustainability efforts.
Despite the economic downturn, employers across the country are desperately seeking workers with the skill sets necessary to master new clean technology. The key to identifying and capitalizing on these training opportunities are robust community college and industry partnerships. George Piedmont Technical College (GPTC), located northeast of Atlanta, has formed some powerful relationships with companies in the building automation and controls industry. Employers have become actively engaged in the college’s program design and students who complete the program are being placed in good careers.
While the Illinois community college system views the green economy as a key cluster for job creation, challenges such as increased enrollment, tightening budgets, and difficulty forecasting green occupational demand can hinder an effective workforce development response.
Los Rios Community College District (LRCCD) (CA) is a recognized leader in education, and workforce and economic development. LRCCD—along with a broad group of business, academic, community development, governmental, labor, infrastructure, and technology organizations—has created a valuable and deep collaboration, the Green Capital Alliance (GCA). GCA is working to strategically expand green economic development using the regional workforce to support projected growth.
In south central Wisconsin, Madison Area Technical College (MATC) has led the creation of an exemplary program that allows entrée into a host of green occupations through the model Consortium for Education in Renewable Energy Technologies (CERET).
Today Tucumcari, NM is on the verge of economic rebirth built around an emerging wind industry and the resourceful instruction of Mesalands Community College, home of the North American Wind Research and Training Center—the first partnership of its kind between a national energy laboratory and a two-year higher education institution in the country.
Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) and Dubuque, IA, stakeholders have created a synergistic relationship supporting sustainable living for the entire community. Community, business, and higher education stakeholders have collaborated to create a replicable model for sustainable living. As a key partner in the community discussions, NICC is a leader in offering green programming that supports expanding green industries and increases community awareness.
Over the past decade, St. Clair County Community College (SC4) in Michigan has transformed its 25-acre campus into a sustainable “living laboratory.” Green roofs dot the tops of buildings, a bioswale cleans tens of thousands of gallons of rainwater and alternative energy implementations like solar panels, wind turbines and a geothermal field are generating energy to power computer labs and other facilities. Each of these green projects serves a dual purpose: reducing the college’s carbon footprint, while also providing students real-world, hands-on learning opportunities.
As winner of the 2012 Green Genome Award in the category of Strategic Partnerships, West Virginia University at Parkersburg (WVU-P) has worked over many years to serve some of the most economically distressed counties in the nation.


As the winner of the 2012 Green Genome Award in the category of Governance, Butte College (CA), a rural college situated on a remote 928 acres designated as a wildlife area, set out to create a governance structure to ensure commitment to sustainability practices in all facets of the college, with ambitious plans and goals to ensure action.
Lakeshore Technical College (LTC) is providing students the skills needed to be successful in emerging and specific regional energy careers. With strong statewide college system collaboration, key employer relationships, and a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Labor (DOL), LTC has developed some key degree and certificate programs that directly link to flourishing campus sustainability activities.
Four years ago when Lincoln Land Community College (LLCC) began their green programming efforts the college didn’t have the fiscal resources to fund the programming, workforce development and infrastructure envisioned by college leadership so they did the next best thing – created a virtual green center.
Santa Fe Community College (NM) (SFCC) was one of the first community colleges in the country to develop an explicit institutional “green” vision and mission, in this case tied to the deep-rooted environmentally conscious beliefs of the greater community.
This resource made possible with the generous support from the Kresge Foundation