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Green Economics: Training NC Workforce for a Sustainable Future

March 3, 2011

ASHEVILLE, N.C. - When it comes to rebuilding North Carolina's post-recession economy, some in the state's education system are banking that "green jobs" will help Tarheel workers get back in the black.

Statewide, the clean-energy economy grew more than twice as fast as did traditional jobs in the past decade.

To promote the green economy, educators and business leaders from across western North Carolina will gather Friday at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College for the first of three Greenforce Summits in the state. Nancy Troxler, A-B Tech summit organizer, explains why they're already offering sustainable-technology education to their students.

"We have a significant number of employers in the alternative-energy arena, and so there are actual job possibilities for people who have sufficient training."

A-B Tech joined several other community colleges around the state last fall in offering a two-year associate's degree in sustainable technologies. North Carolina is ranked in the top 10 of states for training and support of "green jobs," according to the Pew Foundation. Friday's summit is sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation, Jobs for the Future and Bank of America.

The National Wildlife Federation campus ecology program has been working with colleges for more than 15 years, and southeast campus coordinator Carly Queen explains why workforce training in green jobs is her organization's next step in protecting the environment.

"We need to be working to build this workforce at every different level, not just the higher-end management jobs. We're going to need people trained and ready to go."

Gloria Mwase, director of campus programs for Jobs for the Future, explains that education on sustainable technologies is laying the groundwork for growth in the future.

"Now is the time to start to develop these pathways so that we can engage those whose skills need further development now, so that they'll be prepared when the jobs are here as well."

Friday's summit will be held from 8:30 to 4:30 p.m. at A-B Tech's Candler Campus.

The Pew Foundation's "green jobs" report is online at pewcenteronthestates.org.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC