Academic journal article Adult Learning

Adult Learning Meets the Green Economy: Lessons from a Green Jobs Education Project

Academic journal article Adult Learning

Adult Learning Meets the Green Economy: Lessons from a Green Jobs Education Project

Article excerpt

Abstract: The new green economy affects adult education and workforce development as adult workers seek skills and knowledge that will help them find success in work and life. Recent years have brought about increased interest in and discussion of training for green jobs. Since the introduction of the Green Jobs Act in 2007, questions about how exactly to train workers for jobs in the changing economy have drawn attention from legislators, educators, and the public at large. Demand for new skill sets and refocused expertise requires workers and educators to not only refine basic skills but also create learning opportunities that meet the needs of the contemporary workplace. This article examines issues, challenges, and implications related to the development of a model for green jobs education. The Green Jobs training project of the Institute for Career Development offers perspective on what education and training programs can do to help ready learners to enter the green economy.

Keywords: green jobs, workplace training, energy training partnership

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Background

The Green Jobs movement in the United States was gaining momentum for several years when the Green Jobs Act was introduced in Congress in 2007. The purpose of the bill was "to amend the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 to establish an energy efficiency and renewable energy worker training program" (Green Jobs Act of 2007). The bill's sponsor, Hilda Solis, then representative from California, recognized the demand for training and the opportunity for U.S. workers to get in on the green movement. If prospective green jobs openings could be filled by trained American workers in the United States, those jobs would not have to be filled overseas. The bill was passed by Congress within the Energy Security and Independence Act of 2007 but was never funded. By 2009, the U.S. economy was in deeper trouble, and Congress recognized the need for intervention. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was introduced January 26 and signed by the president on February 17, 2009. This piece of legislation intended to address the economic emergency with broad strokes that provided, among other things, investment in green infrastructure in a variety of ways, including training (ARRA, 2009).

The Institute for Career Development (ICD), headquartered in Merrillville, Indiana, is a negotiated benefit for eligible members of the United Steelworkers Union (USW). ICD was created in 1989 as a result of contract negotiations between the USW and major steel companies. It is a joint initiative with labor and management working together to provide educational services to the workers. Today, there are more than 70 Career Development Programs nationwide in the steel, tire and rubber, paper, and glass industries. The emphasis at ICD learning centers is on teaching portable skills that workers can use to enhance their existing careers or take with them beyond the mills, mines, and plants should they change jobs. Approximately 80% of ICD courses are customized, meaning instructors are hired to design classes specifically for the local workers. Most of these courses are taught in learning centers at or near the plants and are offered on schedules that accommodate shift workers' unpredictable and swing schedules. ICD's customized, portable skills model of worker-centered learning was an ideal fit to incorporate green jobs training into existing local Career Development Programs.

When considering whether to engage in this new Green Jobs Education project, it was important that ICD be able to incorporate the training into its existing model, according to the approach to adult learning the organization embraces. ICD developed the model for its learning programs during its early history and formally adopted a Vision of Learning in 1997. The Vision is a position paper that describes nine principles ICD holds as true for most adults (ICD, 1997). …

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