Community Colleges and Green Jobs

As traditional manufacturing industries face a diminishing workforce and offer secure employment to fewer and fewer workers, some employees are going on the offensive seeking out training opportunities in the booming alternative energy sector. Community colleges throughout the country are racing to provide training to workers seeking new opportunities, supported by significant funding resources made available through the Recovery Act. George Berghorn, who oversees the environment, design and building technologies department at Lansing Community College in Michigan has said “It’s a growth area in that where workers previously made ball bearings for a Cadillac, now they can do it for a wind turbine.”

Kentucky’s Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) is joining the region’s efforts to provide training opportunities, developing curriculum for residential energy efficiency audits and installations that will position students who complete the curriculum to sit for, and pass, the national Building Performing Institute’s certification written and field-based examinations leading to a Building Analyst certification. The KCTCS program plays a major role in the training portion of Kentucky’s newly announced KY Home Performance Program, which will rely on certified contractors to carry out residential retrofits to qualify for state incentives.

Labor unions across the Commonwealth are also making training opportunities available to their members; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is drawing on national curricula developed in conjunction with the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee of National Electrical Contractors Association to train their members in a wide variety of “green jobs”, including retrofitting buildings to improve energy efficiency to installing solar and wind power equipment.

“It’s an economic fact that during a time of downturn, people turned out of the workforce will want to be busy and want to be doing productive things to improve their competitiveness,” said Bracken Hendricks, a energy and economics senior fellow at the liberal think tank, Center for American Progress. “People go back to school — especially if you are in a town that lost a plant.”

In much of Kentucky, decreasing construction, manufacturing and mining jobs may also prompt workers to look for additional job skills as well as career-oriented pathways and work. It is the hope of education service providers throughout the state that available programs, like the retrofit and building analyst trainings, will enable Kentucky workers to strengthen existing experience, learn new skills, and make themselves more competitive applicants as additional jobs become available.

Classes preparing students for the Building Analyst certification exam are being offered with no pre-requisites May 10 – 15, 2010. To enroll, visit www.hbalexington.com or contact Sandy Beck at 859-273-5117. There may be rebates or assistance available to cover the cost of $1,450 per student. Additional courses will be offered through KCTCS locations throughout Kentucky. Contact your local campus for more information.

Kristin Tracz

About Kristin Tracz

Kristin Tracz served MACED’s Research and Policy team from 2009-2012 working on clean energy policy, energy efficiency programs and the Appalachian Transition Initiative. She joined MACED after finishing her Master of Environmental Management degree at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. She now lives and works in Washington, DC.