CU-Boulder provides 'green' jobs training in growing field of sustainability

The Sustainable Practices Program at the University of Colorado Boulder offers individual courses and a sustainability management certificate to help workers and job seekers meet the growing need for green knowledge and credentials in the workplace.

"This is a megatrend, similar to electrification or manufacturing," said program manager Kelly Simmons. "The public and private sectors are realizing that sustainability-driven practices make constituents happier and save money, in addition to the obvious boon of helping to protect the environment."

About 290 people have enrolled in CU's Sustainable Practices Program since its 2007 inception, including a journalist who now covers the "smart grid" energy system, and professionals updating their credentials in LEED standards -- a U.S. benchmark for "green" building design, construction and operation. The program is open to the public.

Chris Berry, a former mayor of Lafayette, Colo., earned a professional certificate from the program last year and now works for Trane, an international energy services company.

"The Sustainable Practices Program gave me a boost on my resume that helped me move into the kind of work that I wanted to do, where there's a lot of opportunity," said Berry. "I use what I learned in class to talk with public, private and nonprofit groups about sustainability -- making assessments, planning and how to get things done. The groups are very interested in energy and water conservation to reduce their carbon footprint and save money.

"I think there are success stories throughout the Sustainable Practices Program in terms of participants and how they've been able to use the training to further their careers," he said. "Mine is definitely one of them."

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment this fall selected the CU-Boulder program as an official provider of green jobs training for Coloradans.

Among an array of statewide sustainability training opportunities, CU-Boulder's program is the only public university offering for which participants may receive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funding. Some scholarships remain for Coloradans interested in the statewide programs, which can be applied for through state workforce centers.

Fifty-year-old Nikki Jackson of Denver, who hasn't held a full-time position in three years, is in the process of applying for the Sustainable Practices Program. She thinks it would put her ahead professionally and have a domino effect on the Colorado job market.

"As somebody who's in the position of many people -- middle-aged and having to recreate themselves in this economy -- enhancing my sustainability expertise at CU would give me more than an edge. It would make me credible," said Jackson. "The program would help me to not only create my own job, but to create many jobs for others."

Jackson is launching a communications firm called Sustainable Storytelling. The move comes after years of work in television news, public relations, marketing and political campaign management, as well as a period of caring for her husband, who now is in cancer remission.

The Sustainable Practices Program's interdisciplinary courses, taught by industry experts, range from "Understanding the U.S. Energy Landscape" to "Creative Financing of Sustainability Initiatives." Participants need not be registered at CU-Boulder and may apply for and begin the program at any time.

Classes, which are not for university credit, can be taken individually, or as part of a professional certificate track. Most courses are one day and held on campus on various dates throughout the school year.

Most courses are worth 10 program credit hours. To earn the professional certificate, 100 program credit hours are required including the completion of three core classes: "Organizational Change for Sustainability," "Communication Strategies for Sustainability" and "Tools and Techniques for Sustainability."

For more information on CU-Boulder's Sustainable Practices Program visit sustainable.colorado.edu/.

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