Much in the way the Works Progress Administration of the Great Depression put millions of Americans back to work, there is great hope that green jobs will do the same thing during these current tough economic times. What’s more, CareerBuilder.com recently named green jobs as one of seven careers that are poised for growth. But what are the skills needed to get one of these new economy jobs, and who will qualify for them?
Kris Nasiatka, manager of certification, books, and video at the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) has a few answers. “There’s a perception that green jobs will only be about those in renewable energy like the solar panel installer or the wind turbine technician, but there are also green manufacturing jobs to consider,” she explains. “There’s the existing manufacturing job in the aerospace industry, where a worker with skills in composites can almost seamlessly transfer to making wind turbines. Then there are manufacturing jobs that would be enhanced by green knowledge. These types of jobs are ultimately good news for a former auto machinist, welder, or fabricator with in-demand skills, but who may need additional training to meet requirements for green manufacturing jobs.”
To help pave the way for those with specialized manufacturing skills looking to add sustainability to their body of knowledge, SME is collaborating with Purdue University’s Technical Assistance Program to develop the Green Manufacturing Specialist Certificate. The Purdue TAP curriculum focuses on such topics as sustainable manufacturing, energy efficiency, water conservation, reuse and recycling, designing for the environment, and how different pollutants affect the environment. The program came together as part of a U.S. Department of Labor funded program in North Central Indiana. “Our goal was to provide training that would help people become more effective in their existing jobs or help them transition to jobs with new companies in emerging green industries,” says Ethan Rogers, manager energy efficiency services, Purdue University TAP. And while there are other green programs available, “no other program offers validation that a student has a comprehensive understanding of the many topics that comprise sustainable manufacturing. This is valuable to potential employers and by extension to students.”
This partnership includes SME developing an accompanying exam or outcome-based assessment, which will be tested by participants in the Purdue TAP green workforce-training program. Upon successful testing in Indiana, SME will offer the exam nationwide. “The exam will be able to easily adapt to any green curriculum anywhere in the country,” Nasiatka says, “and once students pass it they’ll walk away with a certificate of completion of in-demand, green job skills. We believe that this will be encouraging news for manufacturing job seekers looking to enhance their skills or make new career moves.”
Beyond a broad course of study, the Green Certificate also offers varying levels of learning intensity. “The generalist level is intended to provide awareness, while the specialist level is intended to create project champions who have a more comprehensive body of knowledge.” Rogers says. ”Upon completion of the six specialist modules they are ready to sit for the SME exam and earn an SME certificate. As the program and our partnership with SME progress, we envision additional levels that prepare plant engineers and project managers to lead plant and corporate sustainability programs.”
As far as interest and enrollment in the program, Rogers says it has already attracted a number of students and he expects enrollment to grow to “a couple hundred people sitting for SME’s certificate exam” by as early as 2010.