The Role of STEM Education in the Growing Green Collar Economy

Community colleges, K-12 schools, institutions of higher education and the federal government are working in a variety of ways to develop career and educational opportunities in STEM fields and the new green economy.  NASDCTEc co-sponsored a luncheon yesterday for Hill staffers entitled “The Role of STEM Education in the Growing ‘Green Collar’ Economy” that addressed these efforts.  The event was a collaboration between sponsors and the STEM Caucus, the CTE Caucus and the Community College Caucus.

Dr. William E. Kirwan, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, was optimistic about the broad consensus in this country and around the world about the impact of climate change.  President Obama’s agenda reflects this as he makes math and science top priorities and focuses on green issues.  However, he is concerned about the pace at which we are moving relative to other G8 nations on climate change; there is a sense of urgency among those nations that the United States is lacking in his opinion.

Dr. Kathleen Schatzberg, President of Cape Cod Community College, stressed that community colleges are vital in providing individuals and employers with green and STEM credentials that are in demand.  Community colleges also work closely with other partners in the community to make sure that their efforts are broad and cost effective.  She signaled out dual enrollment as one effective way of getting students interested in the STEM fields before they enter college.

Dr. Patrick Konopnicki, Director of Technical and Career Education at Virginia Beach City Public Schools, reiterated Dr. Schatzberg’s point that partnerships are key and he urged CTE to partner with their city’s economic development board as he has done in Virginia Beach.  He also pointed out that CTE provides the basis for STEM jobs and as such Gov. Kaine has established the Governor’s Career and Technical Academies which will focus on STEM.  Virginia Beach has also incorporated sustainability into their strategic plan, requiring that students learn sustainability skills.  For example, the district will teach LEED concepts to all juniors in CAD and construction courses beginning this fall.

Deputy Assistant Secretary at OVAE, Glenn Cummings reflected on the federal government’s role in STEM education and green jobs, which includes their investment in community colleges and focus on sustainability.  He also highlighted the University Sustainability Program created by the 2008 Higher Education Act.  That program, which has not been funded, would provide grants to universities and colleges to develop programs and practices related to sustainability.

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