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Green jobs initiative to help community college students

January 22, 2010 | 12:08 pm

California Community Colleges and Southern California Edison have launched a $1-million green jobs initiative to help train financially needy students for jobs that benefit the environment.

The gift from the electric utility will provide $2,000 scholarships to students at 10 colleges offering "green" education and job training in six key areas in which workforce demand is expected to grow. Those sectors include solar panel installation, water and waste water management, transportation and alternative fuels, biofuels production and farming, green building and energy efficiency, and environmental compliance, such as air quality and pollution prevention. It is the first time that Edison has aimed grants specifically at expanding job opportunities in eco-friendly technology, said SCE President John R. Fielder.

"It seemed to be a good fit with our focus on the environment and renewable energy and providing workers for Edison as well as other companies in the region," Fielder said. "We think we know a bit about the kinds of jobs needed."

Recent reports have documented a growing green economy, especially in California, where the number of green companies increased 45% from 1995 to 2008, according to Next 10, a nonprofit group based in Palo Alto, Calif. The Pew Charitable Trusts reported recently that the growth rate of green jobs nationwide was 9.1% from 1998 to 2007, compared with a 3.7% increase for all jobs during the same nine-year period.

The Edison initiative will provide $100,000 to each of 10 grant recipients: Cerritos College in Norwalk, Cerro Coso Community College in Ridgecrest, El Camino College in Torrance, Golden West College in Huntington Beach, Long Beach City College, Los Angeles Southwest College, Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, Rio Hondo College in Whittier, San Bernardino Valley College and Ventura College.

Los Angeles Southwest College is developing a new associate's degree program in environmental science and technology with the first three courses offered this spring, said Alistaire Callender, an instructor who developed the program. "This [grant] is really helpful, especially when we’re starting a new program," Callender said. "And in this economy, students can use every bit of assistance they can get."

-- Carla Rivera