2011 Good Job Green Jobs Conference: Career Insights - Part 2 of 4

The 2011 Good Jobs Green Jobs (GJGJ) Conference provided a wealth of career insights for workers from all backgrounds and levels of education.  These insights are applicable to all professionals, whether they are at the bottom of the American Pyramid or whether they have MBAs or PhDs.

During the sessions I attended, I was amazed and inspired by the success stories I heard.  There are many dedicated professionals and educators that are building (and growing) programs designed to prepare professionals from low-income and at-risk populations for good paying green jobs.  These success stories are geared towards professionals with little education, but many of the insights shared during these sessions apply to any professionals dedicated to getting business done better:

Career Insight #1: Transferable skills are a key to success - From conversations on how to train at-risk youth through apprenticeships to debates on how to combine education at community colleges with experiential learning with partner organizations, one career insight remains constant across approaches:  Students need to understand that what they are learning and know how to do in one context can be transferred to another context.  These transferrable knowledge and skills are key for workers to advance their careers and climb the green ladder no matter where they start.   This point was made very clearly by two panelists at the 'Partnerships and Pathways: Keys to Success in Regional Green Jobs Training and Placement' (namely Cathy Melvin from the Central Arizona Area Governments, and Jan Lepore-Jentleson from the East End Community Services).   These remarks were also made during a session titled 'Pathways to Somewhere: Linking Educational Pathways, Apprenticeships Pathways and Demand Creation Strategies'.  Both Sammy Chu Sammy Chu (Director, Long Island Green Homes Program for the Town of Babylon), and Jeff Grabelsky (Director of the Cornell University Construction Industry Program) underscored the importance of transferrable skills in career advancement in the construction industry.  Being able to articulate one's transferrable skills is a key to success for graduates from a pre-apprenticeship program, community college graduates, liberal art graduates from an Ivy League school, MBA students as well as for PhD candidates that do not want to pursue an academic career.  For all hiring managers, past performance predicts future performance.  Hence, no matter where you come from, you must be able to translate your past experience, skills, knowledge and education into winning statements that will help you convince your future employer of the value you can add.

Career Insight #2: Knowledge and practice go hand in hand - Sitting in a classroom listening to stories about how to do something is not akin to being able to do it yourself.  For example, attending a course on the different welding techniques and tools will do little to guarantee that students in the course will be good welders at graduation.  Similarly, sitting through an accounting course focused on different accounting techniques and regulations will do little to guarantee that students in the course will be able to enter a single accounting line when starting out at a firm.  Many programs have understood this point, and are integrating practice within their curriculum to make sure that graduates are ready to add value to firms from day one.  Some examples of such programs for Americans at the bottom of the Pyramid include the stackable programs offered at the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College (LATTC).  Other success stories include RichmondBUILD, which receives financial support by the EPA Brownfields Job Training Program.  This green job training program recruits mainly ex-gang members in LA, and teach them the knowledge and skills they need to compete for well-paying green jobs.  Their placement rate is 91%, with an average starting salary of $18.33.  The combination of classroom knowledge and built-in practical projects to apply that knowledge gives the best of both worlds.  Of course, many MBA programs use the case method extensively, but these nice finite projects still feel quite abstract to many students who know they don't have to live the consequences of the recommendations they make during their case comp presentations.  Classroom learning combined with internships, apprenticeships, or free lance work are best to help professionals get the knowledge and experience they need to be competitive on the job market (and effective once hired).

Whatever level of education or background you come from, you need to be able to articulate your transferable skills, as well as combine knowledge with practice in order for you to be able to kickstart or advance in your green career trajectory.  What other career insights have you gathered through the 2011 GJGJ Conference?

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