Greenforce: Leaders Emphasize Community Colleges as Green Jobs Laboratories

As the Central North Carolina Greenforce Summit continues in Greensboro today, I bring you more constructive nuggets from on-site NWF staffers. Delicious, delicious nuggets.

If you’re looking for a one-line takeaway of the event thus far, you could do a lot worse than to listen to Dr. Rusty Stephens of Wilson Community College, a co-founding signatory of the CODE GREEN Initiative, “to develop and promote Sustainable programs” across the North Carolina community college system. He may have said it best when discussing the ways the state system needs to reinvent itself: “Our campuses are our laboratories.”

www.greenforceinitiative.orgSuper CIP (Curriculum Improvement Project) Project Manager Butch Grove of Wake Technical Community College later emphasized the need to design flexible curricula so that community college greenforce training programs can seamlessly “incorporate new technologies as they emerge” rather than reinventing (re-re-inventing?) themselves every few years. This would make campuses more dynamic and suited for teaching-by-example right away.

Robin Kohanowich, from the Sustainable Agriculture Program at Central Carolina Community College, said students from CCCC’s uniquely entrepreneurial program—hands-on training opportunities include work on an on-campus farm—often start their own farms right out of the gate. Sounds pretty laboratory-ish to me (why didn’t my college English classes have me writing great American novels from my dorm room?).

Southern Energy Management’s David Boynton, a former high school science teacher, pointed out that, no matter how you teach (or, presumably, what you teach), some students are ‘gifted’ and will figure out how to put the information to work. However, some students require a different approach–you need to put them into real world situations to let them flourish.

Super CIP Transportation Sector Co-Director Rich Cregar echoed his colleagues, explaining that community colleges need to move away from teaching by rote and concentrate more on hands-on training (Say, these ‘find a unifying theme’ posts write themselves!).

Of course, the initiative that brought these leaders together lends itself to practical talk: the Greenforce Initiative is dedicated to preparing America’s workforce for the green economy through improvement of community college training pathways. NWF partnered with Jobs for the Future (JFF) to launch the Greenforce Initiative in September of 2010, thanks in part to the Bank of America Charitable Foundation grant and a grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.  So far, it 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.