Greening the Work Force

This Week in NWF History

Since 1936, the National Wildlife Federation has worked to conserve the nation’s wildlife and wild places. As part of our 80th anniversary celebration, we are recognizing important moments in our history that continue to make an impact today.

As with many sectors in the United States, we’re seeing a “green” shift in the workplace as more sustainability and conservation minded jobs are created. From renewable energy technicians to climatologists to wildlife conservationists, the more we have, the more likely we’ll experience a sustainable future. In response to the need for a greener work force, the National Wildlife Federation is helping educate and engage young people to hold those jobs.
Photo from Haywood Community College
Photo from Haywood Community College

Six years ago, NWF and Jobs for the Future created the Greenforce Initiative, which established the Greenprint Report, providing examples, recommendations, and serving as a blueprint to “green” career education policies and practices at the national level for sustainability. Through this initiative, 300 faculty members at 100 community colleges have adapted nearly 500 courses and serve 10,000 students. The course adaptations aimed to boost students’ career skills by covering more than two dozen disciplines, including building technologies, energy management systems, automotive and building trades.

The Greenforce Initiative has been instrumental in helping students find jobs in the sustainability sector. One participant, Evan Foster, a graduate of Lansing Community College (LCC) with a degree in energy management systems and a certificate in energy auditing, says that the hands-on experience he gained as part of his degree set him apart when applying for his job after college as the student assistant to the Director of Utilities and Energy Management Systems at Wayne State University. When he was a student, Evan conducted three residential energy audits and two commercial energy audits as part of his course requirements. He also gained experience with lighting retrofits, which was one of the first projects he took on at his new job.

Photo from Piedmont Community College
Photo from Piedmont Community College

Evan now works as a Senior Project Coordinator at Nexant, a globally recognized software, consulting, and services leader that provides innovative solutions to utilities, energy enterprises, chemical companies, and government entities worldwide.

The Greenforce Initiative is an offshoot of NWF’s Campus Ecology program, which has focused on campus leadership for sustainability in all areas since its creation in 1989. Soon, Campus Ecology will become the resource center for NWF’s EcoLeaders program instead of maintaining a separate presence. The EcoLeaders Program focuses on helping college students and young professionals sharpen leadership and career skills for a clean, wildlife-friendly economy. Once a student registers to be an EcoLeader, he or she can join an on-line community, access project design and support tools, get certified, and explore the career center.

Kawika. Photo by Kawika Winter
Kawika in Hawai’i. Photo courtesy of Kawika Winter

Throughout 2016, the EcoLeaders Career Center is celebrating the motivating stories and career accomplishments of alumni of NWF’s programs and initiatives like Greenforce. The program is honoring its Top 50 Inspirational EcoLeaders who are some of the young professionals NWF supports. One of the outstanding inspirational EcoLeaders is former NWF Fellow, Kawika Winter, who during his fellowship focused on developing a natural resource management system for the Limahuli Garden and Preserve, a part of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens on the north shore of the Hawaiian Island of Kaua`I.

Today, Kawika serves as the Director of the Preserve, which requires him to bring together the world of science and conservation with the world of ancestral practice and philosophy, and to direct that synergy towards being a model of biocultural conservation in Hawai`i. Kawika likens his job “to that of a symphony conductor.” As an administrator over the conservation, research, education, visitor, and community-outreach programs, he makes sure that everyone is playing in time from the same sheet of music.

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