Broad Range of Green Job Training Methods on Display at First NC Greenforce Summit

The Western North Carolina Greenforce Summit kicked off this morning at the Enka site of the Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in Candler, NC. It was cloudy overhead, but that did little to dim the day’s can-do tone.

Now, a disclosure: I couldn’t make it down to North Carolina myself today, but I have received a few dispatches from folks in attendance at what seems to be a jam-packed affair. I’m jealous, obviously, but I’ll soldier on.

Advancing Greener Careers and Campuses in Western North Carolina (Photo: Carly Queen)

Like the Virginia and Michigan summits in February, today’s event is designed as an opportunity for leaders to come together to identify and share region-specific solutions for ramping up green workforce development through community college programming, this time with a focus on ‘Advancing Greener Careers and Campuses in Western North Carolina.’ The summit is the product of a partnership between the Greenforce Initiative (itself a partnership between National Wildlife Federation and Jobs for the Future), the Code Green Initiative, the Code Green Super Curriculum Improvement Project (CIP), and the 30-year-old North Carolina Community College System.

Partnering with Code Green is a big deal all by itself—the coalition, which is working to establish a framework for educating the green workforce and develop education resource hubs across the state, has already engaged almost all of North Carolina’s community colleges.

So far, speakers at the summit have highlighted some teaching tactics that go beyond the typical college fare, demonstrating once again the unique vocational training role of community colleges. Penny Peeler, of Western Piedmont Community College, spoke about baking cookies in solar ovens, having students incorporate old plastic water bottles in their insulation design, and using solar panels to power a barn on the school’s 200-acre on-site farm. Haywood Community College Sustainability Technician Preston Jacobsen discussed engaging students through a crowd-pleasing Renewable Energy Demo Day and showcasing a Green Motor Fleet that includes solar charged golf carts.

Of course, green job training at community colleges isn’t all about cookies and giant Wood Gasification flames. Schools on hand today also discussed the nitty-gritty courses they now offer to help ready students for the growing green economy: green carpentry and residential electrical engineering (Central Piedmont Community College), entrepreneurship programs to help students start their own small businesses (Blue Ridge Community College), and required basic sustainability classes (Caldwell Community College) among many others.

NWF partnered with Jobs for the Future to launch (PDF) the Greenforce Initiative™  in September of 2010, thanks in part to the Bank of America Charitable Foundation grant as well as a $250,000 grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.  Greenforce was founded in an effort to strengthen the capacity of community colleges to develop, enhance or refine green career pathway programs. So far, the initiative has partnered with community colleges in North Carolina, Virginia, Chicago, Texas, Seattle, and Michigan.

You can learn more about the program here and follow the initiative on Twitter @Greenforce.

Stay tuned for more on this, the first of three North Carolina-based Greenforce Summits, including a full news article next week.