In Connecticut, two USDOL grant-funded Initiatives have worked together to create new STEM-based credit certificates in sustainability and alternative and renewable energy fields and a focus on directing students into STEM education and careers. The initiatives address workforce readiness in addition to foundational and technical education, based upon industry recommendations.
Awarded in 2009, the Sustainable Operations: Alternative and Renewable Energy Initiative (SOAR) created eight 24-30 credit certificate programs to teach students how going green can enhance their employability. SOAR was the first major effort in the CCCS to develop STEM-based credit certificates in sustainability and green workforce education. SOAR can teach students how to create and maintain energy efficient, healthy buildings; apply sustainable landscape ecology skills; work with solar equipment and systems; maintain alternative fuel vehicles; provide service for a clean water treatment plant; conduct home energy audits, and more. Funded by a USDOL Community-Based Job Training Initiative, SOAR programs are college level certificate programs that include STEM-based foundational and technical courses. They are aligned to degree programs at the Connecticut Community Colleges, so that students, by taking an additional two to four courses, can obtain a SOAR certificate while simultaneously pursuing an associate’s degree in engineering technology, environmental science, construction, architecture or automotive transportation. The SOAR Initiative utilizes a project advisory committee in addition to local college advisory boards, and through a partnership with the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, has conducted employer engagement meetings to review and modify curriculum, identify job shadow, internship and plant tour sites; as well as guest speakers and adjunct faculty for SOAR courses.
A partnership with the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund and the state Department of Environmental Protection, with funding from the Emily Hall Tremaine Association, created 12 paid student internships with municipalities throughout the state. Students worked with town planners, managers of public works and town selectmen to conduct cost-benefit analysis and return on investment for building efficiency measures and solar initiatives, sea-level rise mapping and storm surge analysis. Internships provided municipalities with human resources to focus on sustainable initiatives and students with real-life experiences to put classroom learning into action. Several students were subsequently employed and one student has since become an embedded tutor in SOAR classes.
The CT STEM Jobs Partnership prepares students and jobseekers for STEM careers in Connecticut. Also funded by a USDOL Community-Based Job Training Grant, the project is coordinated by the five Workforce Investment Boards in Connecticut, and targets disadvantaged youth, dislocated workers and low-wage incumbent workers. STEM Coaches located at workforce boards provide career advising, including interest and aptitude assessment, career exploration, and career “blueprints.” A virtual STEM portal was created to provide free, on-line resources for jobseekers, students, educators and employers. The portal also has an interactive online pathway tool including STEM program curricula and sample career descriptions. A STEM Project Coordinator serves as a liaison between the STEM coaches at the workforce boards and the 12 Connecticut Community Colleges, to facilitate information-sharing, student referral and enrollment.
Based upon a model developed in a prior health grant, the STEM Coordinator and community college faculty developed curriculum for a new course, Investigations in STEM Careers, which incorporates a focus on green and sustainability careers. General course objectives include exploring the scope of a STEM career and education; providing experiential learning in the scientific discovery process, quantitative analysis, and engineering design; increasing scientific literacy and exploring emerging careers and contemporary issues in STEM. Examples of the course’s “green” labs are Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, and Land Cover and Water Quality. Green and sustainable career profiles include environmental engineer, water resource technician, green building entrepreneur and alternative fuel vehicle technician. The course will be available at the community colleges in the spring semester with future plans to make it available to high school students in College Career Pathways programs.
Shared and leveraged resources have resulted in numerous Lean and Green expos on topics including fuel cell technology, sustainable product design, green building/ solar energy, geothermal technology, sustainable living and lean manufacturing and lean & green.
The alignment of the STEM and SOAR initiatives provides SOAR students with additional STEM resources, including access to the portal, online courses and mentors; and information about green and sustainable careers to current and potential STEM students. Addressing STEM skills is and will continue to be a key objective for Connecticut’s system of education, higher education and workforce development.
Author: Rochelle Jewell, Director of Grant Initiatives at Connecticut Community Colleges
- CLICK HERE for information on the SOAR Energy Initiative
- CLICK HERE for information on the CT STEM Jobs Partnership
- CLICK HERE for the CT STEM Careers Pathway Tool
SOAR program: Rochelle Jewell; email@example.com
CT STEM: Cheryl Putnam; firstname.lastname@example.org