“There is now broad consensus among employers, policymakers, educators, and the general public that we must collectively work to conserve resources and protect the biodiversity of our global environment. This cultural shift, which demands environmental stewardship along with economic growth, is changing how private sector employers pursue the development of products and delivery of services. The changes taking place across industries in recognition of our collective environmental challenge have created a growing clean economy—one that relies on new processes and materials and requires workers with enhanced or new sets of skills to develop environmentally beneficial goods and services. This report, a ‘greenprint,’ illustrates effective programs being implemented in community colleges across the country to create college graduates with the sustainability skills needed for the new clean economy. It also outlines recommendations that will lead to the scaling of these programs as the clean economy continues to expand” (p. xiii).
“Community colleges are on the frontlines of sustainability skills education for the clean economy workforce. Nearly 40 percent of the nation’s 1,200 community colleges have instituted sustainability skills educational initiatives at various levels.
…. By integrating sustainability skills into the curricula for a host of programs of study, colleges are contributing to their students’ future success, responding to the needs of local employers, supporting regional environmental health, and providing benefits for students and local economies.
Building on Effective Practices
Based on the successful experiences of leading community colleges in sustainability skills education, there are commonalities between strong career and technical education programs that incorporate sustainability skills. These include:
- Use of labor market information to align programs and career pathways with demand.
- Strong partnerships with clean economy employers in program design and implementation.
- Collaboration with community and labor partners to expand programs and services.
- Increased communications around effective educational approaches.
- Professional development and capacity-building opportunities at multiple levels (state, regional, and local).
- Use of data analytics to support continuous program improvement “(p. xiv).
Major Findings & Recommendations
Recommendations include the following: • “State and Local Governments o Produce state blueprints for advancing community college and employer partnerships for sustainability and STEM skills development. o Convene annual state gatherings of employers and educational stakeholders focused on growing the clean economy and the necessary skilled workforce, as well as on tracking and documenting successful career placement. • Employers and Industry Associations o Work with community college leaders to identify and communicate sustainability skill needs, competencies, credentials, and career opportunities. o Develop a sustainability skills education quality assurance process within each industry sector to ensure high market value and national consistency in the skills and competencies recognized by each credential, while also allowing some flexibility and responsiveness to local needs. • Community Colleges o Infuse sustainability skills education across disciplines through campus- and system-wide curriculum planning and assessment. o Provide faculty with incentives for adapting courses to enhance sustainability knowledge and skills such as professional development, release time, and recognition. o Link postsecondary education with the public workforce development system (Workforce Investment Boards/Career Centers) to create career pathways in clean economy programs integrating sustainability skills that begin with shorter-term certificates and articulate toward higher-level two- and four-year degrees. o Implement work-based and cooperative learning approaches to sustainability skills education that align with student learning outcomes, facilitate applied learning and advancement along a career pathway, and engage employers. o Enhance project-based learning opportunities for students around sustainability skills by including student training opportunities in contract specifications, engaging students in campus sustainability projects aligned with course learning outcomes, and advocating for related campus or state policies to support hands-on learning. o Align sustainability skills training with the larger shift toward industry-recognized credentials and competency-based delivery modalities in community college training programs. “(p.xv-xvi). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)