Incorporating Green Economy Job Growth Areas Into Curricula: A Toolkit

National Trend – Integrating Hot Green Economy Growth Areas into Curricula

By: Amber Nicholson and Debra Rowe

Don’t be left behind. Prepare your students for the fastest growing green economy job areas by integrating these topics into your curricular offerings. 

Energy efficiency, solar, wind, green building, healthy foods, and entrepreneurship are all hot growth areas. American solar jobs alone have increased 167% over the past decade, adding 156,000 jobs. In the five-year period between 2014 and 2019, solar employment increased 44%, five times faster than job growth in the overall U.S. economy.

How can your community college and your students benefit from these high job growth areas?  Integrate the latest information into your existing course offerings and programs, offer feeder events through workforce development in collaboration with local companies, and consider starting new degree programs as well.  The good news is, there is help for you to do this.  The NSF-funded Advanced Technology Education Centers and their partners have curricular materials, career pathways information, professional development for faculty and mentoring opportunities to help you get up to date on existing programs (such as HVAC, business, culinary, agriculture, and construction) and/or start new ones specifically in these topics.

Here are some key resources. During this time of COVID-19, reach out to the contacts below.


Renewable Energies: The Center for Renewable Energy Advanced Technological Education (CREATE)

Create with a farm house sun and wind turbines

CREATE offers resources for faculty leading renewable energy programs.  Funded by the National Science Foundation, CREATE offers professional development workshops for faculty in clean energy technology that feature hands-on experience working with renewable energy tools and equipment.  The Center also has a collection of profiles of exemplary renewable energy programs from two-year colleges across the country.  Each program profile includes a program description, sample syllabi, model lab designs, and faculty and alumni interviews. CREATE also has instructional materials available to teachers that include fully developed lesson plans, student handouts, lecture materials, answer keys, assessment tools, and documentation that aligns the lessons with the DOE Energy Literacy Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards.  CREATE PIs are engaged in mentoring faculty that are starting new renewable and energy efficiency programs, and in helping to incorporate clean energy principles within related fields such as architecture, construction, electrical, engineering, and HVAC programs.  To download the most recent CREATE Newsletter, view the CREATE webinar collection, and sign up for the CREATE mailing list, please visit 

The following programs are run by colleges and faculty that are part of the CREATE network:


Commercial Energy Efficiency: Building Efficiency for a Sustainable Tomorrow (BEST) Center

BEST logo

Contact: BEST Facebook page or Peter Crabtree (510) 464–3218

For Automation Systems (BAS) Specialists as well as High Performance Building Operations Professionals (HPBOP). Expand your HVAC program, connect this to a business degree, or create a stand-alone program. Demand for these workers outstrips the supply. They can help you be part of its national network of community and technical colleges interested in improving and/or developing new building science technician education programs. The Center will continue to archive model curriculum and disseminate and promote the adoption of this model curriculum nationwide.


Residential Energy Efficiency: The Building Performance Institute (BPI)

Contact:  Larry Zarker, CEO at or 202-256-3893 (direct).

The Building Performance Institute (BPI) offers certifications, standards, and programs in building energy efficiency.  Their materials can be integrated into health programs, construction, business, design and HVAC programs or act as stand-alone curricula.  The Building Performance Institute (BPI) delivers valuable marketplace certifications for individuals seeking a career in sustainable energy and the comfort, health and safety of homes.  Over the past 28 years, BPI has worked closely with a national network of community colleges and other training centers to prepare people for a valuable career in single-family and multifamily “whole house” home performance upgrades.

BPI’s national network of Test Centers ensures a local source of training and certification testing.  Certifications include Building Analyst (conducting the energy audit and overseeing the job), Envelope (tightening the home and reducing the energy burden), AC/Heat Pump and Heating (integrating a house-as-a-system approach to HVAC work), and Healthy Home Evaluator (eliminating conditions that may negatively impact the health of occupants).  BPI was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop four Home Energy Professional (HEP) certifications to serve the national low-income Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) in all 50 states.  BPI also developed the Building Science Principles and Healthy Housing Principles reference guides and certificates of knowledge to serve as introductions to students interested in becoming realtors, inspectors, utility program staff, community health workers, in-home nurses, or asthma educators.  In these times of national pandemic with people spending 99 percent of their time in their homes, it is critical to have a workforce that can optimize the performance of homes for the people who live in them. 

Santa Fe Community College is one successful example of a BPI Test Center providing training and certification for the emerging workforce.  SFCC’s Energy Smart Academy provides a range of classroom and online trainings to deliver BPI certification exams, including the four HEP certifications for the WAP program, an online prerequisite Building Science Principles course for all new students, Building Analyst, and Healthy Home Evaluator.  SFCC just introduced a four-hour online COVID-19 Workplace Safety training that DOE is sponsoring the national WAP network to take.  The full range of SFCC trainings is available here.

BPI also works closely with the community college network throughout New York state to ensure alignment between the offerings of the community colleges for students. Ulster Community College is a member of The SEED Center network.

This is a great time for community colleges and BPI to explore ways to build next-generation training and certifications for the emerging workforce. 


Building Design and Construction: The Center for Green Schools

center for green schools

The Center for Green Schools has multiple free curricular toolkits in green building design, operation, and construction, zero waste, and green careers to help students move into the high job growth area of green building design and construction. Scroll down on the link to access the free curricula.


Sustainable Agriculture & Food: Kalamazoo Valley Community College

Contacts: Co-Directors of Culinary and Brewing Education: Stephanie Hughes,; Cory Barrett; Director for Sustainable Food Systems: Rachel Bair,

Open to sharing program content materials and participating in a community of practice.

Programs: Culinary Arts and Sustainable Food Systems (AS/AAS); Sustainable Brewing (CERT/AS/AAS)

KVCC also offers extensive non-credit/community programming in Sustainable Food Systems, Culinary Arts, and Medical Culinary Education



These are just some of the resources available to you to help your community grow great programs.  The SEED Center, originally created at AACC and now housed at NCWE, also has a resource center for you to use. The resource center provides handbooks, webinars, reports, and more around 7 green economy sectors and topics. 

Have questions?  Contact Debra Rowe by email at DebraRowe [at]