The SEED Center

How Are The Resources Organized?

SEED Resource Center is a curated collection of information to help educators develop and advance quality green job training programs and courses.

The Center strives to provide a representative sample of innovative, promising practices and stellar resources. It is not intended to provide a link to ‘all’ green and sustainability resources. Rather, it aims to provide community colleges with what would be considered the most valuable, useful and important reports, information, promising practices, etc., as deemed by our Technical Advisory Group.

Because the green economy is rapidly evolving and changing so too will the resources in the Center.

This resource center is currently organized around five (5) green economy “Sectors” and seven (7) “Topics”:



Sector Descriptions:

See resource references for bibliographic data.

Solar Sector

  • Overall employment in the solar industry increased by 10,000 people from 2008 to 2009 and adding in its supply chain, represents 17,000 new jobs in 2009. (6)
  • Currently, the industry directly supports about 46,000 jobs in the United States, with expected growth expected to surpass 60,000 in 2010. (7)

The solar energy sector largely consists of firms that are engaged in the development, manufacturing, installation, and servicing of a variety of solar energy technology, which can capture, convert, and distribute energy from the sun. Two solar technologies, photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP), generate electricity, while a third technology, solar thermal collectors, produces heat for water heating and cooling for residential, commercial, and industrial facilities (1). Although some areas of the United States such as Arizona, California, and Florida have the greatest concentrated solar power potential, solar power can produce electricity in many different climate settings. (2)

The solar industry is expected to show steady growth over the coming decade (although the industry represents a small percentage of the overall renewable energy market). This growth will be largely due to rising energy prices, advances in technology through public/private partnerships and investments, and continued enactment of federal and state policies and financial incentives. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia (DC) have enacted renewable portfolio standards, which require that providers supply a certain amount of electricity generated by renewable energy sources. (3) In addition, 22 states and DC have adopted financial incentives to promote the installation of solar water heating or solar panels for electricity generation. (4)

In recent years, growth trends continue to create strong solar markets and employment opportunities despite the economic downturn. According to the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), the capacity of PV installations completed grew by 40 percent compared to the capacity installed in 2008 and for solar heating and cooling trends, 10% more solar water heating installations were completed in 2009 than 2008 (5). There still remains a few challenges, however, to widespread adoption of solar technologies and job creation and growth: inconsistent interconnection, net metering, and utility rate structure, inconsistent financial incentives, complex and expensive solar installation, a lack of proven financing methods, and a shortage of a skilled solar installer workforce (8).

As these challenges are resolved, a skilled workforce will be critical to successful solar markets. Many of the key solar occupations today are considered to be new and emerging such as designing, installing, or selling solar equipment. (9) However, workers with skills in traditional industries such as construction (e.g., roofers, plumbers, HVAC technicians and electricians), sales, telecommunication and other technical industries may be well-suited for these occupations with the necessary training, credentials, and/or on-the-job experience. The solar sector also offers the most advanced certification model for renewable energy occupations–The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). (10) In addition, career pathways exist in the industry, with tremendous opportunities for promotion and career advancement for community college students based on work experience, coupled with additional education and training. (11)

Wind Sector

  • In 2009, the sector invested $17 billion in the U.S. economy, employing approximately 85,000 people. (8)
  • Jobs include turbine component manufacturing, construction and installation of wind turbines, wind turbine operations and maintenance, and transportation and logistics.
  • If the goal of 20% wind electricity by 2030 is to be reached, about 250,000 additional workers will be needed. (9)

Wind power is considered a leading source of new electricity generation in the United States, with the potential of providing 20% of the nation’s energy needs by 2030 (1, 2). The current wind power capacity in the U.S. totaled more than 35,000 megawatts (MW), generating enough power for almost 10 million homes. (3) In 2009, the industry broke all records for installing new generating capacity, due to improved technology, lower costs of wind turbines, and federal and state incentives (4).

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, most of the wind potential comes from the windy central regions, although many eastern and western states also have significant wind potential. (5) Today, 36 states now have utility-scale wind projects, with Iowa leading in percentage of electricity from wind power (14%) and Texas in wind capacity, installing the largest numbers of wind farms (6). Challenges remain to realize America’s full wind power potential, including: the need for investments in the transmission infrastructure, reduction in wind capital costs and advances in technology for turbine performance improvement. (7)

A skilled and trained workforce will be required due to the strong projected growth in the wind industry.

Currently, there are several hundred educational programs offer a certificate, degree, or courses related to wind energy, the majority in university or college programs or community college or technical schools (10). Some community colleges have developed wind programs leveraging existing industrial technology programs or courses such as mechatronics, mechanical engineering, hydraulics, electronics, electricity, automotive, and aviation. (11) Workers who are ideally suited for wind careers today include those with electrical and manufacturing skills and competencies and work experience in traditional industries such as automotive, telecommunication and semi-conductors sectors. (12)

Green Building Sector

  • The green building market has expanded five fold over the last three years to a $48 billion national market—and is projected to triple in the next five years (2)
  • Green building construction currently supports over 2 million jobs despite the current economy. (5)
  • By the year 2013, green buildings will support nearly 8 million workers in a range of occupations from construction managers, carpenters, electricians, architects, truck drivers, and cost estimators. (6)

In the United States, buildings account for 40% of total energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, 13 % of water use, and 160 million tons per year of construction and demolition (C&D) debris (1). With the growing recognition of these environmental and other impacts, coupled with federal and state policies and incentives, the green building market has grown exponentially for the last several years. Specifically, the green building market has expanded five fold over the last three years to a $39 to $48 billion national market in 2008 and is projected to triple in the next five years. (2)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines a green building is defined as, “the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction (3).” With the continued goals focused on increasing energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions, new building codes and standards may increasingly require that new construction and renovation projects of existing buildings adhere to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, considered the preeminent green building rating system in the U.S. Further, the Department of Energy is currently working to create technologies and design approaches that enable net-zero energy buildings at low costs by 2020 for residential buildings and 2025 for commercial buildings. (4)

Some of the jobs may require some changes in skills and competencies, but at this time, it is not expected that the growing market will create new and or unique occupations. Education and training needed for these occupations will also vary, with some professional positions requiring a college degree, while construction trades positions may only need some technical training. Many community colleges are adapting existing traditional construction trades programs and curricula to train workers for green building design, renovation, and construction and for some, help them gain credentials such as LEED AP or LEED Green Associate from the U.S. Green Building Council. (7)

Energy Efficiency Sector

  • Employment in the energy efficiency services sector will increase by a factor of two to four, accounting for approximately 1.2 million workers in 2020. (4)
  • Professional occupations such as engineers, architects, managers, and energy efficiency program managers will account for about 25 -35% of the workforce (4)
  • Building and construction contractors and trades will account for about 65-75% of the jobs (4)

The energy efficiency industry has quickly become a significant economic driver in the United States, with the enactment of state and federal policies, availability of new energy efficient technologies that bring increased demand for services and products, and a surge in public and private investments. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, an estimated $300 billion was invested in energy efficiency technologies and infrastructure spanning multiple sectors in the United States in 2004.(1) Currently, twenty-four states have enacted energy savings goals through legislation, or Energy Efficiency Resource Standards (EERS), and four states have a pending EERS. (2) Further, a number of new technologies, from light-emitting diodes to high performance windows to smart grid platforms, have increased energy efficiency for residential and commercial use, and are impacting the sector. (3)

As this sector experiences significant growth and changes in the next decade, so too will employment opportunities to meet the increasing demand for energy efficiency products and services. A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, indicated that employment in the energy efficiency services sector alone is likely to increase by a factor of two to four, accounting for approximately 1.2 million workers in 2020 (65-75% of which will be building and construction contractors and trades). (4). Many of the jobs in this sector will be built on existing occupations such as HVAC technicians, lighting contractors, and construction trades, integrating new green skills and competencies through training. This sector has also created new and emerging occupations over the past few years focused mainly on utilities and energy resource management, including home energy raters, energy auditors, commissioning services, and energy/home performance services. (5,6)

Energy efficiency training and education is provided through community colleges, unions, third-party certificate and accreditation programs, colleges and universities, and utility-funded programs. Community colleges have developed new programs for selected occupations such as energy auditors or resource conservation manager, but, some do not offer them as a dedicated program; instead, many programs include energy efficiency within broader subjects such as in environmental sciences, buildings sciences, or engineering technology. There are a variety of energy efficiency professional development and certification programs and exams offered by third party and trade associations that often collaborate with community colleges, including the Building Performance Institute (BPI), the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE), Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), and the North American Technician Excellence (NATE). (7) Large-scale rate-payer funded energy efficiency education can supplement community college offerings and provide professional development for incumbent workers that want to expand their energy efficiency knowledge. (8)

Sustainable Ag., Food & Land

The Sustainable Ag., Food & Land sector covers the areas of organic farming, horticulture, culinary arts, and landscaping. This sector includes organizations and resources that integrate environmental, social and economic factors into land use, food preparation, and land specific practices in an attempt to create a more sustainable future.

Transportation & Fuels

The Transportation & Fuels sector covers the area of electric and hybrid vehicle development and maintenance, other forms of alternative and sustainable transportation, natural gas, fuel cells, battery storage, and renewable fuels sources including ethanol, biodiesel, algae, and methane.

General Clean Tech

The General Clean Tech sector is a space for resources that encompass multiple sectors. Many are applicable to the broader green economy and clean technology and will serve the general clean tech community. This allows our members a more streamlined user experience across the board, where they are able isolate resources in our sector specific topics and then utilize the general sector when searching for cross-cutting information.

Resources also provide valuable information on sectors that are experiencing substantive development in the sustainability realm, like manufacturing and smart grid. Although manufacturing represented only 10.8 percent of total private employment in 2012, it accounted for 20.4 percent of green jobs (1). World smart grid sales climbed to $36.5 billion at installed prices in 2012 — a growth of 30% on 2011 (2). In addition, as our utility grids get “smarter,” smart grid education and training will be an important component of colleges’ energy, HVAC, construction, electric, and other technology programs. Given this increase in activity of the sustainability economy, this section serves as a hub for those resources experiencing substantial growth.

The resources found in the General Clean Tech sector provide a lens for the larger picture of the clean economy. Users will find information from federal agencies like the Department of Energy and will also find documents and resources to help build their general training and education programs in these areas.

Sustainability Education

Sustainability education refers generally to learning experiences that enable students to develop the knowledge, behaviors, and skills to help create healthier ecosystems, social systems, and economies. For the purposes of the SEED Center, this includes resources to help build non-credit continuing education for the incumbent workforce and integrating sustainability curriculum into existing credit programs.

While a focus for building a green workforce is on career and technical training for direct renewable energy and energy efficiency occupations, community colleges provide high–quality education for students in all walks of life. The resources found here in “Sustainability Education” will help colleges build a more comprehensive education and training system designed to infuse sustainability principles throughout curriculum. Resources from organizations and networks such as the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and the Disciplinary Associations Network for Sustainability play prominently in this section.

Topic Descriptions

Curricular Materials

These resources and materials have been vetted by industry and education experts, and while not in the form of specific educator tools, will assist in creating quality curricula for your classroom. You will find more specific educator tools (e.g. syllabi, lab manuals, lesson plans, special classroom projects, equipment lists, etc.) submitted by SEED member colleges in our Curricular Materials Sharing Portal.

Several organizations, including the Advanced Technology Environmental and Energy Center (ATEEC) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Efficiency and Renewable Energy, have made great strides in collecting and cataloguing green sector curricular materials from training providers nation-wide. In addition, national industry groups such as the American Wind Energy Associationthe U.S. Green Building Council, and others have unveiled, or soon will release, their approved curricula and supporting materials which will be captured here.

Certifications and Industry Credentials

Certainly, one of the biggest challenges facing green educators is the rapid and mainly uncoordinated emergence of green certifications and credentials.

While information and agreed-upon training requirements exist for some national certifications (e.g. NABCEP for PV and solar thermal installation, and LEED for green building) many sectors and occupations within the green industry are currently not covered, are covered by overlapping credentialing, or have certifications and standards under development. As colleges seek to design curricula to prepare students for portable industry certifications across both renewable and energy efficiency careers, the following resources should help.

In addition to links to specific certification descriptions, other important resources are included, such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center on Wisconsin Strategy report that lays out a framework for national policy actions are included.

Employment & Industry Projections

While job training providers in recent years providers have been quite actively working with local industry to define the emerging green jobs market and potential job growth areas, most of them still struggle to accurately forecast regional occupational demand. The U.S. Department of Labor has made recent strides toward classifying green occupations and competencies which will help communities define and track green jobs (and help colleges design appropriate education and training programs). Given the uncertain renewable energy and efficiency industry outlook, and rapidly changing technologies, access to the most up-to-date industry studies and employment projections will be critical.

This section highlights a number of excellent national reports quantifying industry and/or employment growth across the green sector. In addition, some state and regional reports have also been included when it was determined that their methodologies and data could be easily adapted and used in other regions.

Innovative Practices & Partnerships

The job creation potential of the green economy has led to some unique job training and economic development partnerships and collaborations.

Community colleges are partnering with:

  • Workforce investment boards to assess regional training needs
  • Industry to design customized training programs for employers and employees to build the green economy
  • All stakeholders to envision and implement sustainable community plans
  • One another, regionally, to coordinate program development and delivery

In this section you will find reports or write-ups of unique educational, community development and/or workforce development programs (which may or may not be focused on community colleges).

Skill Sets, Competencies, & Career Pathways

This section includes lists and assessments of skill sets and competencies tied to the green economy – across the broad industry as well as within specific sectors. It also includes some critical resources that colleges can use to align programs and facilitate student transitions. Included are green energy competency models and newly-developed career pathways that allow movement across educational and training programs.

Several key resources, including IREC’s Best Practices and Recommended Guidelines, provide comprehensive training guidelines, criteria, and task analyses.

Professional Development Resources

This section includes promising facilitated learning opportunities, including “train the trainer” programs, standing conferences, and informal learning opportunities situated in practice for faculty and staff seeking to further their knowledge of industry trends and requirements. Also highlighted here are toolkits and other material developed through various professional development programs directed at faculty or staff.

As opportunities, including training materials, peer networks, and other events are announced, they will be captured in the SEED Center.

Policy & Funding Sources

Here you will find links and descriptions of standing agencies and organizations that typically fund sustainability and green job training initiatives as well as those that provide important information on national legislation and policies relevant to the clean energy sector. Specific funding announcements will be captured on the home page and in the SEED newsletter, although the list may not be comprehensive.

©2023 The SEED Center.