Green Manufacturing and Urban Agriculture: Hot Topics discussed at the Chicagoland Greenforce Initiative Meeting

Green manufacturing and urban agriculture were the hot green topics discussed at the first Greenforce Intiaitive gathering on May 17th at the Chicago-Kent College of Law.  The gathering was in conjunction with the Chicago Green Collar Jobs Initiative 4th annual summit and participants were from Chicagoland community colleges, non-profit organizations, state agencies and our foundation partners.

American manufacturing has seen a steady decline for many years, especially in the Midwest region.  According to the International Trade Association- Illinois has seen a decrease in manufacturing jobs by 37% between 1990 and 2009.  However, the theme for the Greenforce meeting was “Manufacturing is not dead!” Marc Smierciak, Associate Dean of Instruction, Humboldt Park Vocational Education Center, Wilbur Wright College showcased that their green manufacturing training programs are at capacity and that students are leaving college with jobsand employable credentials.

Furthermore Tom Gannon, Manufacturing Specialist from AFL-CIO Working for America, discussed that although the United States has lost traditional manufacturing jobs, there has been an increase in green manufacturing- including wind, solar, battery technology and fuel efficient engines. Working with the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council, and industry experts, new green standards are being finalized and will be piloted in Indiana at an AFL-CIO center this summer.

Jennifer Keeling, Director of City Policy at the Chicago Jobs Council, discussed their new report, “Job Growth Projections and Analysis in Chicago’s Emerging Green Industries”  which demonstrates possible job growth potential in the Chicagoland area to include: energy efficiency, landscaping and urban agriculture, and renewable energy.

Urban agriculture, local food, composting and green landscaping were discussed with enthusiasm during the session titled “Campus Greening Connections with Workforce Development.”  It seems as if colleges and community partners are ready and willing to figure out ways to further educational and community outreach opportunities as it relates to urban agriculture.  The Greenforce Initiative will work with our college partners to assist with possible curriculum development and sharing of best practices as programs are developed.

Even though green manufacturing and urban agriculture stole the show during this meeting, the theme really focused on partnerships, and how the Greenforce Initiative, local community college partners, training providers and other community organizations need and can work together to ensure the green economy is inclusive and effective in creating good, family-sustaining green jobs.