Community Colleges: Training Clean Energy Workers

NWF   |   March 19, 2009

Our own Xarissa Holdaway has a story at WorldChanging that describes how some California community colleges are experimenting with green-collar training programs.

In many regions, early reports suggest there are not enough workers to meet demand for wind, solar and geothermal projects, while some states find the opposite: that there are more trained professionals than there are jobs. A report from the National Council on Workforce Education states,

“[M]any jobs that are currently, or predicted to be, in demand are ‘middle-skilled’ jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree. It is important to note that although there will be a growing number of new green occupations requiring new knowledge, skills, and abilities, it is expected that the majority will be transformed from existing jobs, requiring a redefinition of skill sets, methods, and occupational profiles.”

To more accurately predict when and where workers will be required, not to mention training these workers, she reports that community colleges are turning to local organizations and pioneering a new collaborative model that can “respond to trends in clean and green technology.” One such project, the New Energy Workforce (NEW) Initiative, a partnership between Bay Area community colleges and regional workforce investment boards, is able to conduct courses, research employment opportunities, and share successful curricula between schools.

Kitty O’Doherty, convener of the NEW project, says, “This is a call for new levels of collaboration. We convened the Workforce Investment Boards and the colleges in our region in February, and both groups are extremely committed. They [WIBs] are going to have the funding to place people in these jobs, and we’re going to have the training. The common mission of preparing individuals for meaningful careers and creating a well-qualified workforce for our region is a very compelling motivator.”