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Community Colleges Gear Up for Training in Green Jobs

If green jobs are the promise of the future, then community colleges want to be ready as the training ground for the industry.

Today, the American Association of Community Colleges and ecoAmerica, a non-profit environmental organization, launched a leadership initiative and free online resource center for community colleges to share information about educating the workforce in the green economy. The SEED Center (Sustainability Education and Economy Development) is a joint effort by AACC and ecoAmerica to prepare workers for jobs in renewable energy, energy efficiency, green building, and sustainability.

More than 300 of the nation's 1,200 community college presidents have signed onto the initiative, pledging to reach out to work with businesses, government and nonprofits to connect training to jobs. This is the kind of public-private partnership that President Obama encouraged last week at the White House Community College Summit when he said community colleges had a critical role in training the workforce of the future and turning around the economy.

The SEED Center will be a nationwide network to help schools develop curriculum, tap into industry and employment information, and learn about case studies where training in green jobs has worked. For instance, Cape Cod Community College in Massachusetts has been training technicians for work in the growing wind farm industry. Oakland Community College in Michigan has developed a popular program in renewable energy where students get field experience doing energy audits and refurbishing public buildings with energy-efficient materials.

In September, Jobs for the Future, a Boston-based non-profit, announced a new two-year project with the National Wildlife Federation to spur green jobs, innovation, and training at community colleges. The Greenforce Initiative: Advancing Greener Careers and Campuses has created six regional learning and action networks partnering with community colleges in North Carolina, Michigan, southern Texas, northern Virginia, Chicago, and Seattle. It will provide assistance to colleges as they develop and expand green pathway programs designed for lower-skilled adults and non-traditional students. The initiative is supported with a $1 million grant from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation and $250,000 grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

Some high schools are also expanding their instruction in environmental education in ways that can begin preparing students for college tracks in environmentally friendly technology and practices. In Maryland, the State Board of Education went a step farther last month and voted to make environmental education a part of every student's education.

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