Greenforce Initiative

Greenforce Initiative

Helping Colleges Build Green Career Pathways, Green Campuses

Helping community colleges develop pathways into “green economy” careers for low-skilled adults, while strengthening workforce development and college sustainability practices.

Mary V.L. Wright
Director, Employer Alliances
617.728.4446 x211

The Greenforce Initiative serves 100+ community colleges and 8,000+ lower-skilled and nontraditional workers, helping them implement career pathways into the "green economy" in six states across the country: 

  • Illinois
  • Michigan
  • North Carolina
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Washington


Why Green Jobs?

Across the nation, funding is flowing into efforts to build a green economy. Government, nonprofit, and for-profit sectors are making unprecedented investments in new technologies and approaches to address climate challenges, increase energy security, and stimulate economic growth. The success of emerging green industries will depend on a high-quality workforce with specialized training and the sector is generating enormous demand for “middle-skill” workers at family-supporting wages. This offers extensive opportunities for low-income workers who want to enhance their skills.

However, finding and accessing green job training can be difficult, especially for adults who lack basic academic skills or need supports to help them juggle education, work, and family obligations. Community colleges are positioned perfectly to fill this gap, becoming the primary route for low-income, lower-skilled adults to obtain the education and training required for green jobs and family-sustaining green careers. The colleges also have the opportunity to help themselves—and make new contributions to our nation’s sustainability efforts—by investing in “greening” their own campuses.

The Greenforce Initiative helps community colleges develop high-quality pathways into green industry jobs for low-income adults. It also strengthens sustainability practices at community colleges, enabling students to get hands-on training for skills that green employers seek while enhancing each institution’s environmental impact.

A partnership of JFF and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), the initiative has a network of 100+ community colleges in 6 regions that share lessons, connections, resources, and innovations.

JFF and NWF provide technical assistance in developing and implementing green pathways and campus sustainability efforts, including:
  • Identifying skills and credentials that regional employers demand
  • Creating college-employer partnerships
  • Determining best practices for advancing nontraditional workers
  • Leveraging state and federal funding to expand effective green pathways
  • Managing an innovation fund of mini-grants for selected technical and capacity-building needs
  • Documenting and sharing practices and results through publications and convenings

Greenforce Initiative outcomes to date:

  • In Illinois, Chicago’s colleges have implemented $1.6 million in electric and gas-saving measures in only 8 months. More than 8,000 jobseekers received training.
  • Michigan has 10 community college partners, including: Lake Michigan College, which created a how-to guide on repurposing and converting shipping containers into eco-friendly functional spaces; and Lansing Community College, which is rebuilding two homes that had been scheduled for demolition to be energy efficient as part of a neighborhood revitalization project.


  • North Carolina’s 58 community colleges are all involved in Greenforce. Of them, 7 have credit and noncredit green training courses and campus sustainability projects underway.
  • Virginia has 10 community college partners and published a “Green Labor Market” report.
  • In Washington, Seattle has 6 community colleges partners; Greenforce is partnering with SkillUp Washington to expand the network.


  • 3 community colleges have funding and classroom resources from NASA to strengthen their STEM career education options for adult learners.