Supporting community colleges in educating for and building a green economy
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Home­Colleges in Action ­ Success Stories ­ Community College of Philadelphia: Green Opportunities for Manufacturers and Entry-Level Workers

Program Design & Delivery

Community College of Philadelphia: Green Opportunities for Manufacturers and Entry-Level Workers

To address poverty and the challenges facing entry-level workers in Philadelphia, 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. Community College of Philadelphia’s efforts have achieved stunning success through key program strategies: industry partner collaboration, industry-relevant program content, and comprehensive student support.

Partner Collaboration

The Northeast Regional Center (NERC) has been transformed into a cutting-edge, eco-sensitive education and training facility where students witness clean technology and sustainable design at work inside and outside the facility. A new 60,000-square-foot wing melds seamlessly with the existing structure that also has been extensively refurbished. The entire $31 million project was built to comply with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold standard set by the U.S.

The NERC is one of two green expansion projects at the College. The second is on the Main Campus at 17th and Spring Garden Streets and includes a new Pavilion building and renovation work on the existing Bonnell, Mint and West buildings. The Pavilion is expected to also receive LEED gold certification.

“These buildings serve as living laboratories where students can learn by their surroundings,” said President Curtis. “We’ve created state-of-the-art learning spaces that will help students become global citizens who really understand what sustainability means.”

Community College of Philadelphia’s collaboration with local businesses includes both technical assistance for green business practices and mutual support for recruiting and training workers for green jobs. It began by responding to widespread perceptions that the manufacturing sector is out-of-date or “dirty.” As part of the city’s larger community effort to engage businesses in re-energizing manufacturing, particularly green manufacturing, the college and its partners shared simple green business strategies that result in operational savings. Community College of Philadelphia paired suggestions to reduce waste, recycle, and reuse with examples of savings for businesses to demonstrate the competitive advantages green strategies to local employers.

In turn, industry partners provided Community College of Philadelphia with strategies for transitioning low-income individuals into local jobs based on their knowledge and understanding of the local job market and population. These partners include the Urban Industry Initiative (UII), Manufacturing Alliance of Philadelphia; Energy Coordinating Agency (ECA); Edu¬cational Data Systems, Inc. (EDSI); Penn¬sylvania CareerLink, Philadelphia; National Comprehensive Center for Fathers (NCCF); and Local Union 502 of the Ironworkers.

Together the partners and college assist with job placement for students and identify additional local businesses to participate in the program. Community College of Philadelphia also helped local businesses reduce the costs associated with recruiting and hiring employees, working with them to create a video about why manufacturers are interested in hiring certified, skilled, job-ready candidates, who have completed the college’s Job Ready Training Program.

Industry-Relevant Program Content

Community College of Philadelphia and its 42 partners expect to train and employ 250 participants from 2010 to 2012 through the Job Ready Training Program. Job placement will be in the energy efficient building, construction, and retrofit industries; or with manufactur¬ers who produce sustainable products and/or use environmentally sustainable processes and materials.

Green Manufacturing
Community College of Philadelphia’s entry-level green manufacturing training is a 12 week program in which students learn basic workplace skills related to careers in manufacturing, including mathematics, reading, writing, OSHA, and job safety, and gain exposure to relevant technology. Training includes onsite tours with local green manufacturers. Green manufacturing trainees who complete the program will receive an industry-recognized certifi¬cate issued jointly by the College and the Manufacturing Alliance of Philadelphia (MAP) and a National Career Readiness Certificate endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturers. Through this program, Community College of Philadelphia expects to train 150 students for entry-level green manufacturing positions.

Construction and Weatherization
The entry-level construction and weather¬ization training is a seven-week program covering basic work¬place skills and academic coursework, job readiness and soft skills training, and job-specific training focused on weatherization skills, lead safety, crew safety, and lab and field training. Construction and weatherization trainees will be tested to receive Pennsyl¬vania Labor and Industry certification as installers. Community College of Philadelphia expects to train 100 students for entry-level construction and weatherization positions.

The training program helps students develop a “green mindset” and understanding that their new skill sets give them a competitive edge in the job market and the workplace. Students practice communicating their new skill sets during mock interviews, alternating between providing responses and appropriate feedback.

Project Director Wendy Ardagna says learning to have a green mindset encourages students to “think like management” in a shift that for many students is transformational. After completing the program, students feel comfortable sharing suggestions with their new employers for incorporating green workforce strategies as a way to increase company profits and revenues.

Comprehensive Student Support

Each of the training programs has program-specific eligibility criteria for participating. Program participants also will be required to sign and agree to various waivers and a Code of Conduct, and must be able to pass applicable drug testing throughout the program and subsequent employment.

Students in the program will receive in¬tensive support to help them complete the training program and find a job. Case managers will continue this support for six months following initial placement, moni¬toring progress and developing strategies and solutions to address job retention challenges. A “high touch” approach is considered key by the U.S. Department of Labor, which executes strict entrance, continuance, and completion requirements and requires intensive case management throughout.

Program Outcomes

Outcomes at a Glance:
- 100% of program participants complete training
(compared to 61%
national average)
- 75% of the program’s trainees have completed one or more credentials
(compared to 29% nationwide)
- 65 trainees have been placed in jobs, with an 87% retention rate
- 11 grant participants have enrolled in academic credit programs at the Community College of Philadelphia.

Ms. Ardagna observes that Philadelphia employers are impressed by the quality of training and the industry-recognized certifications trainees receive. “Employers save a lot of time and money by not having to advertise and screen applicants, plus they know what they are getting,” she says. “Philadelphians get employed and companies avoid high turnover costs. We are fighting poverty and all its social and physical consequences to program participants, while doing rapid response training and placement, while also making everything as green as possible!”

For additional information:

Wendy Ardagna
Project Director, Pathways Out of Poverty
Community College of Philadelphia, Corporate Solutions

- CLICK HERE for the Job Ready Training Program
- CLICK HERE for the Get on the Path to a Green Career Video
- CLICK HERE for the Manufacturing Alliance of Philadelphia
- CLICK HERE for the Community College of Philadelphia Pathways Magazine

- PICTURES: 1) Pathways Out of Poverty Program graduate James Walker speaking with new trainees. 2) Program graduate James Walker with Program Director, Wendy Ardagna

This resource made possible with the generous support from the Kresge Foundation