The future green workforce: Shaping preparation programs

Published on: 
29 Jul 2021
Jenny Wiedower

Feature image credit: NDABCREATIVITY from Adobe Stock.

Green building companies and their employees have immense opportunities to support the K–12 schools, teachers and students that produce future workers. By engaging students who want jobs that support a more sustainable future, companies can actively shape a local emerging workforce that is prepared for green building job openings.

Help ensure local graduates are ready for work

In this series, we’ve covered how companies and professionals can support career pipelines by creating work-based learning opportunities, providing career mentoring and engaging directly with classes. Another option is to participate in the process of designing the academic standards that high schools use to prepare students for entry into careers. Green building is a rapidly expanding field, and the responsibility for transferring knowledge to career preparation programs lies with professionals and companies in the field today.

Career technical education (CTE) programs exist in most school districts across the country, and they are tasked with providing career preparation learning experiences to equip students for mostly local job markets. They are therefore attuned to local labor conditions and have the flexibility to design learning experiences that have local relevance. A great example is the excellent engineering and technology programs offered in Clark County School District, located just down the road from Tesla’s Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada.

In addition to job market data, CTE programming is informed by industry: Companies participate in the formulation of learning targets with the aim of graduating students who have the technical skills and soft skills to immediately contribute to the workforce. This is accomplished by advisory committees at the state and local levels, and participating in one as a volunteer is an incredibly valuable contribution to students, the community and your own company.

According to the New Jersey Office of Career Readiness within their Department of Education, “The primary purpose of the CTE Program Advisory Committee is to assist educators in establishing, operating and evaluating the CTE program and to provide expertise and insight about current/future industry and technological changes.”

Greg Plavcan, sustainability specialist with the Gensler office in Washington, D.C., recently had the opportunity to advise on the updating of architecture CTE standards for District of Columbia schools. CTE staff had proposed changes to the standards, so it was Plavcan and his fellow volunteers’ responsibility to review, looking for the skills and knowledge that he knows from experience are integral to today’s architecture field.

Throughout the course of his career, Plavcan has seen the benefits of incorporating sustainability into design vs. viewing it as a standalone concept, and he has seen how the industry has evolved in that direction. So, while serving as an advisor, he advocated for integrating sustainability across the curriculum and suggested ways to look for evidence of this learning in student outcomes. Plavcan says the total time commitment was low, and he feels more invested in the next generation of sustainability professionals as a result.

Take action: Leverage your know-how to inform curriculum

Industry advisory committees exist at the school, district and state levels, and all benefit from volunteers who are informed and passionate about their work. Determine at which level you’re interested in serving, and reach out to learn about openings in your area of expertise. CTE programs of study vary from locale to locale, but most include architecture, construction, engineering and manufacturing.

Northeast Florida teacher Ali Pressel relies heavily on input from her school’s industry advisory board, composed of educators, administrators and company representatives. “More and more schools in Florida have invested in bringing community partners in to work with schools during the summer, even before students are in classrooms,” says Pressel.

Visit your school district’s CTE or career development website to learn about district-level opportunities to review curricular frameworks and educational programming. Advance CTE, the national association of state-level CTE professionals, has information on state advisory groups.

Once you’ve established your volunteer role, be sure to reflect—individually, with colleagues and via professional associations—on the key insights you want to represent. What trends and data, as well as sage observations, will you advocate for inclusion into standards? How will you represent the opportunities available and skills and knowledge required in the green building field?

This is the fourth in a series of six articles that will explore how green building businesses and green building professionals can support the future green building workforce. We’ll also cover:

Have a story to share about how you’ve supported middle and high schools in building a green building career pipeline? We’d love to know! Email Jenny Wiedower with your story.

Want to connect with emerging professionals and share your knowledge? Attend Greenbuild 2021 virtually or in San Diego, California.

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