The SEED Center

Defining the Green Workforce

Defining the green workforce is a key foundational step for this Resources section. To date, much has been written on this topic, and the Resource Center has what we think are some of the better industry and employment studies. For a unique community college perspective on this topic, please see an article written by Dr. Mary Spilde, President of Lane Community College (OR) and former chair of the AACC Board of Directors. She is both a national leader in this field as well as an institutional practitioner.

We agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Spilde’s analysis and offer a supplemental framework for thinking about green jobs.

We use the U.S. Department of Labor’s working industry definition as a starting point (five green categories). From the industry definition we provide three simple groupings of green occupations. These groupings form the basis for how community colleges are generally designing training programs:

Existing Jobs Needing New Technical Skills – jobs that will require workers to acquire additional training to fully transition their skills to new industry opportunities (e.g. traditional building trades such as electricians, plumbers, construction workers, and HVAC technicians, all of whom must understand things like green design principles).

New Direct Jobs – jobs that will be created because of rapid industry sector growth and the introduction of new technologies (e.g. solar technicians and photovoltaics; wind technicians installing turbines, building auditors understanding how to monitor systems, etc.).

Greening of Existing Jobs – jobs across all industry sectors that will require a deeper awareness of environmental challenges and their associated technological changes.

Another key point regarding the role of community colleges in the green economy: If there is to be robust job creation in this industry, our nation needs businesses in these areas to grow their green products and processes; investors to build these businesses; policy makers to encourage market growth; financiers to create cash flow; and, most importantly, knowledgeable consumers to take action and create demand. In addition to training technicians, community colleges are, more than ever, taking on this comprehensive role as “community educator” – educating small business entrepreneurs, salespeople, business managers, policy makers, and dozens of other stakeholders who need to understand the sustainability challenges and can engage in solutions and business opportunities.

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