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Posts Tagged ‘Education for Sustainability’

By Anne Bertucio, Business & Community Relations Coordinator, Focus the Nation
(This article appears in the October, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

ACUPCC ImplementerStudent involvement, ideas, and innovation have been and continue to be a driving force behind sustainability successes on college and university campuses.  In 2008, Focus the Nation (FTN) launched a national teach-in campaign to empower students through education, civic engagement, and action to advance a clean energy future. In turn, the ACUPCC has provided a terrific opportunity for students through their FTN training to play an integral role in the development and implementation of their campus’ Climate Action Plan’s.

Currently FTN offers the ForumstoAction (F2A) program providing students with leadership skills, energy literacy, experiential learning and professional development. The F2A program benefits both the student and campus as it provides a framework for interdisciplinary collaboration, academic engagement with industry experts and elected officials, and an opportunity to apply existing campus resources to urgent sustainability issues in the community, to name a few. F2A participants at the University of Utah and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville have already made an impact. Their efforts show how valuable student leadership in implementing the climate action plan can be to the institution’s carbon footprint, and the capacity of students to prepare for a changing economy by shaping their institution’s climate and sustainability initiatives.

University of Utah solar ivy panels

University of Utah student Tom Melburn holds a prototype of a photovoltaic panel that will be part of a “solar ivy” installation

At the University of Utah, one portion of their Climate Action Plan focuses on meeting their net neutrality goal through interdisciplinary collaboration. F2A student team leader Tom Melburn used Focus the Nation’s (FTN) unique collaboration framework (the FTN Collaboration Quadrants) to bring multiple university departments and academic disciplines together to fund the first Solar Ivy installation in North America on the University of Utah campus.

Placed in a high foot-traffic area of campus, the Solar Ivy installation demonstrates new, innovative clean energy solutions to students, visitors, and faculty. But F2A leader Tom hasn’t stopped there. Inspired by other F2A student teams across the country, Tom used the F2A program to generate interest in a sustainable financing mechanism, called a green revolving fund, for student-led renewable energy projects. Tom is now installing solar on a second campus building through the fund. Through these projects Tom has gained skills in project management, stakeholder engagement, fundraising, and public speaking, all while increasing his energy literacy.

One of the F2A student teams Tom collaborated with was the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK). The UTK F2A team is working with administrators to sign the Billion Dollar Green Challenge, a nationwide initiative for universities to establish a revolving fund and collectively raise one billion dollars towards energy efficiency projects. Through their work with Focus the Nation’s leadership development staff, the UTK team hosted an event called “Getting’ Green, Savin’ Green: Energy Efficiency at UT” to bring together the numerous stakeholders involved in their campus’ energy story. One of those stakeholders is the utility Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

UTK is the largest purchaser of renewable power from TVA, but thanks to the FTN event, UTK is now partnering with TVA to become their most energy efficient customer. Both the Billion Dollar Green Challenge signatory and the TVA partnership progress the goals of UTK’s Climate Action Plan. Like Tom, the UTK student team grew as leaders and developed skills they will take beyond graduation.

The collaboration and innovation of these two student teams captures the spirit of Campus Sustainability Day and the power of higher education to move sustainability forward. By engaging in a continuing dialogue as part of the CSD conversation this year, the campus community can reflect together on these successes, using their regional or campus conversations as a platform for discussing new challenges and opportunities to ensure students are prepared for a changing climate and economy through integration and support of the campuses’ climate neutrality goals.

To launch an F2A team on your college campus and learn career skills while being part of the clean energy solution, contact Focus the Nation at info@focusthenation.org or call 503-224-9440.

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By Kate Gordon, Director of Advanced Energy & Sustainability at the Center for the Next Generation, and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress
(This article appears in the October, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

ACUPCC ImplementerI’ve spent many years making the case that transitioning to a greener, more advanced energy economy will create jobs, spur economic growth and put America on a path toward global technological leadership. But lately, I’ve been thinking that I’ve placed too much emphasis on the stuff side of this equation—the need for investment in the products that make up the greener economy, like the wind farms, smart grid systems and efficient cars—and not enough on the people side—the high-quality workforce that can actually dream up, make, and install all that stuff. What does America need provided in advanced education, experience, and skills in order to prepare a workforce of students to meet the needs of the new green economy?

My colleague, Ann O’Leary, tends to focus her work on people more than on stuff, and she knows well that education and training are absolutely fundamental to any strategy for economic growth.  She has a new report out, jointly produced and co-authored by The Center for the Next Generation and the Center for American Progress (CAP), showing that our primary international competitors, China and India, are gearing up to seize a larger share of the future economy through greater investments in education. That report, “The Competition That Really Matters,” compares U.S., Chinese and Indian investments in the next-generation workforce. The research shows that a highly ambitious commitment to education is the heart of economic revitalization in China and India, leading them to expand the number of children enrolled at all levels of the education system, producing up to five times as many college graduates each year.

Meanwhile, approximately 44 percent of American workers do not have any education beyond high school. By 2018, only 36 percent of jobs will be open to workers with a high school diploma, while 63 percent will require at least some form of post-secondary education. The math is simple. At this pace, we will fall well behind the competition—and forfeit lucrative jobs in the process.  What does this mean? Americans run the risk of consigning another generation to low-skill, low-wage jobs—and higher rates of poverty.

Given these sobering results, Ann and her co-authors, Donna Cooper and Adam Hersh, argue that the American education system needs a shot in the arm. They contend that we need to make human capital investments, especially in young people—and that investing in education will yield the highest rate of return.

I think they’re right, but I also think that for a green economy, we need to go a step further.

The emerging advanced energy economy worldwide is already creating millions of jobs and generating trillions of dollars in economic activity. These jobs run the gamut — research and development, engineering, architecture, advanced manufacturing, construction, operations and maintenance. They provide well-paid opportunities for low-, middle- and high-skill workers.

Figure 1: From “Preparing America’s Workforce for Jobs in the Green Economy: A Case for Technical Literacy”, Center for American Progress April 2011

But is the American higher education system educating and training Americans to be able to access these jobs?  Talk to employers across the advanced energy spectrum, and they’ll tell you we don’t have a workforce capable of matching job needs, especially in the manufacturing and construction sectors, which comprise nearly half of the new energy economy. Not only do we need to provide better access to educate our children, we need to better prepare our future workforce for highly technical and skill-based jobs in the emerging energy sector.

In the past, we’ve addressed this issue in large part by splitting up our educational goals and our workforce training goals.  Different federal agencies work on K-12 education (Department of Education) and on training programs for specific industries and occupations (Department of Labor).  In the schools that have tried to incorporate both, we’ve too often seen a split between the “academic” tracks and the “vocational” tracks, forcing students to choose between hands-on careers and academic studies even before they’ve had a chance to show their own particular interests or potential.

There has to be a better way.  We need our graduates with skills to become journeyman electricians installing large solar arrays as well as with the intellectual tools for a career as a Ph.D. engineer designing new and more efficient future projects.

My former CAP colleagues, Louis Soares and Stephen Stiegleder, and I call this foundational knowledge “technical literacy,” and we talk about how to get there in a new paper for the green economy symposium of the Duke Forum for Law & Social Change.  “Preparing America’s Workforce for Jobs in the Green Economy: A Case for Technical Literacy” argues that the clean energy revolution will be more capital and labor intensive than the high-tech or biotech revolutions. It will also require more workers, nearly half of whom will need technical skills in traditionally “middle-skill” jobs like construction, and manufacturing.

This vision of a more technically literate workforce requires that all students get an education that is both academic and practical.  If campuses are concerned about providing a “sustainable” education, their curriculum must reflect the economic changes forecasted to our jobs and necessary skill-set. Higher education has begun the transformation (and comingling) of campus and curriculum to create  “living laboratories” to address these needs, investing student time into campus energy projects such as designing solar arrays for residential buildings, and assessing the campus’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategies.

But these programs take time to implement, and require a re-thinking of faculty time, classroom learning objectives, and campus planning.  Are campuses doing enough to prepare students with these opportunities?

Moreover, while individual campuses may be pursuing solutions, what about the big picture for American education?  Is the current system flexible enough to accommodate the needs of our students and workers? The two primary federal programs aimed at providing technical workforce training are underfunded and short-sighted; and public and private workforce training schemes are disjointed.

The key to creating a more coherent post-secondary education system that delivers technical literacy is for business and education leaders to leverage their knowledge of labor markets, skills and pedagogy to build new curriculum and instructional models.

Community colleges, situated as they are at the crossroads of higher education and workforce training, are an ideal starting point. The Illinois Green Economy Network (IGEN) and the Greenforce Initiative, as well as the Sustainability Education and Economic Development (SEED) Center, provide excellent examples of their successful programs.  Other initiatives have been successful in creating partnerships which link community needs with educational output, including the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI), which links local colleges, school districts, and community partners together in join climate-action initiatives which provide ample opportunity for hands-on skill (and leadership) development for students.

Beyond them, my co-authors and I recommend two approaches to promote and expand innovative community-college–industry partnerships. The first is to use existing federal, state and local funds to promote innovation and use more research to identify best practices. The second is to use these partnerships for large-scale experiments, supported by a federal grant program, to demonstrate that they’re achievable.

Campuses with living laboratory and community or corporate partnerships are ahead of the curve.  Those already preparing students for a changing economy will remain competitive in the coming years, as the foundation of American education is changed by increasingly unsustainable financial obligations and demand for appropriate skills and education.   But for these efforts to translate into real jobs for America’s next generation, our national policymakers need to make a clear commitment to a more advanced and sustainable energy future and a skilled workforce to maintain it. Otherwise, we will risk putting training dollars into ossified programs that will prepare workers for jobs that simply do not exist.

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About The Center for the Next Generation: The Center for the Next Generation works to shape national dialogue around two major challenges that affect the prospects of America’s Next Generation – advancing a sustainable energy future and improving opportunities for children and families. As a nonpartisan organization, the Center generates original strategies that advance these goals through research, policy development and strategic communications. In our home state of California, the Center works to create ground-tested solutions that demonstrate success to the rest of the nation.

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by Rima Mulla, Communications Manager, Second Nature

Found, in the Second Nature archives, evidence that our organizational website once reflected the critical and pivotal nature of our work:

Vice President Gore on the 1998 Second Nature Website
Vice President Al Gore loved it…in 1998.

Vote daily for Second Nature in the Carrots for a Cause contest.
Multiply your vote by recruiting colleagues and friends to support us.

We really need to bring our website up to 2012 standards. Thank you!

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On April 30, 2012, the 3rd Annual Massachusetts Sustainable Economy Conference was presented by Integrative Sustainability & Environmental Solutions (ISES) in Boston, MA. ISES, an environmental consulting initiative led by Crystal Johnson.The conference leveraged a variety of discussions on the community and business practices that cultivate a sustainable economy. Higher education plays a critical role in this conversation as the educational driver which creates meaningful programs for career preparedness, community innovation, and participatory citizenship in order to prepare students to create a sustainable future.

Participants included local and multinational businesses, higher education representatives, chambers of commerce and non-profit organizations.  the daylong conference was divided into three main informational sessions with topics including: Active Citizenship for Sustainable Communities, Principles of Product Stewardship and Supply Chain, Leveraging Diversity and Inclusion in Business, and Emerging Energy Issues and Technologies. The final session for the conference was a full-attendee dialogue on “The Role of Women in Creating a 21st Century Economy.”

In “Active Citizenship for Sustainable Communities,” session leader Pat Stewart, President of the North Country Sustainability Center, discussed NCSC’s shift from what was originally created to provide a community kitchen for local agricultural value-added demands, to a regional hub for practical sustainability practices. Recognizing the increasing demand for, and value of, traditional knowledge, NCSC has expanded its services to offer a wide range of guild workshops on topics ranging from weaving and cheese making to masonry, all of which are offered by local experts, or as Pat noted “older folks who don’t even realize they are experts”. The NCSC model represented a critical dialogue point between “formal” and “informal” educational institutions, modeling from the latter steps towards creating a local economy which can depend on local production as well as preserve an array of increasingly vanishing traditional knowledge.

Alongside the community center and the small business owners attending the conference, Chamber of Commerce leaders discussed different effective partnerships with town/city leaders, other business owners, and local schools. One example of this was the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce’s partnership with Nexamp to form the Merrimack Valley Clean Energy Partnership (MVCEP). “The Chamber was awarded a $500,000 contract through a competitive bidding process to provide clean energy consulting and energy monitoring to 31 Merrimack Valley companies” and as a result, received the Northeastern Economic Developers Association “Program of the Year” award in 2011.

In addition to the continuing discussions on supply chain management, urban agriculture techniques, and community partnerships, the conference placed a special emphasis on the role of diversity and minorities in the shift towards a sustainable economy. During the final, all-conference dialogue devoted to the role of women in creating the 21st century economy, Jackie VanderBrug discussed the role of gender lens investing at a business and individual level as a critical sustainability lens. Another imperative aspect of this session was the dire need and current process of getting more women in leadership positions, such as the 20% by 20 campaign. Steven Grossman, State Treasurer and Receiver General, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, opening keynote for the session, underscored the role of partnerships as a baseline method for accountability and progressive reform.

As a cross-sector conference, the 3rd Annual Massachusetts Sustainable Economy Conference provided critical points of conversation on a range of sustainable economy intersections, at which the role of education stood out as a strong partnership imperative, and critical point of movement necessary to shift policy and practice throughout Massachusetts communities.

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