Advancing Greener Careers and Campuses
JFF and the National Wildlife Federation have joined forces on a two-year project to spur innovation in the role of community colleges in the coming green jobs revolution. The Greenforce Initiative™ will:
- Strengthen workforce development and sustainability practices at community colleges; and
- Support community college “green pathways”—not simply green jobs—for low-skilled adults.
The United States must address climate change and rebuild its economy. Across the nation, government, nonprofit, and for-profit sectors are making unprecedented investments in building a green economy; these investments will transform how we produce and use energy in response to the need to address global warming, increase energy security, and stimulate economic recovery and growth. But the success of these investments will depend on a workforce that can help drive changes in energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout our economy and society. To a great extent, this is a workforce that needs to be created through education, training, and re-skilling.
For those on the margins of our economy—lower-skilled, low-income workers and young adults, many from groups historically underrepresented in higher education—community colleges are the primary route to the “middle-skill,” family-supporting occupations and careers that are being generated in the emerging green economy. Moreover, community colleges can be a driver in creating local “workforce partnerships”—bringing together green-sector employers, workforce development organizations, unions, and other community stakeholders. Such partnerships are key to ensuring that workers gain skills that lead to the green careers they want and that green employers need. Community colleges not only help workers access employment and advancement opportunities, but their own investments in “greening” their campuses provide opportunities for students to get hands-on training and obtain the skills that employers seek.
The Greenforce Initiative™ will strengthen the capacity of community colleges to implement or refine quality pathways that lead to careers in the green sector. This commitment builds on the combined experience of NWF and JFF in environmental sustainability and workforce development, and will provide high-impact assistance to community colleges in targeted regions of the United States. The initiative is creating six regional Learning and Action Networks in:
- Metro Chicago
- North Carolina
- South Texas
Our goals are to strengthen community colleges’ capacity for developing, expanding, or refining green pathway programs that:
- Lead to postsecondary certificates or degrees and employment in family-sustaining green careers;
- Are designed for lower-skilled adults and other nontraditional students who cannot currently access such programs; and
- Utilize campuses’ greening efforts as a “learning laboratory” for education and training activities.
The types of assistance offered will draw upon the collective knowledge and expertise of JFF and NWF. They will include assisting with:
- Engaging employers and connecting workforce development programs more strongly to their needs;
- Identifying emerging labor market needs in green sectors;
- Identifying and implementing best and promising practices for designing career pathways and supporting advancement;
- Identifying and implementing strategies for expanding access and opportunities for lower-skilled and nontraditional students;
- Promoting the integration of community colleges’ sustainability efforts with their “green” workforce development and economic development activities;
- Leveraging state and federal funding opportunities to expand effective green pathway program designs for lower-skilled adults; and
- Identifying and taking advantage of opportunities to influence state and federal policy agendas and funding support for this work.
The Greenforce Initiative™ will offer benefits to community colleges and their regions:
- Stronger connections to employers, other partners, and each other. The initiative will create or leverage regional consortia of community colleges through “Learning and Action Networks” that share lessons, connections, resources, and innovations through regional summits, workshops, virtual meetings, and other information-sharing activities.
- Help when it matters. JFF and NWF will provide targeted technical assistance in developing and implementing green pathway programs and campus sustainability efforts. This will be achieved through on-call coaches, field coordinators, a Web site with interactive features for both regional and national questions and answers, an employment “pipeline” approach to building partnerships between colleges and green-sector employers, and an innovation fund of mini-grants for selected technical and capacity building needs.
- National recognition for effective work. The initiative will raise the visibility of community colleges’ efforts through presentations at high-profile national conferences, highlights in national publications, and an ongoing national and regional communications strategy.