Community Colleges have always been at the forefront of economic development. It has only been recently, however, that they have been recognized, rewarded and supported for their critical roles. These two-year institutions provide universal access for anyone seeking first and second chance educational and economic opportunities. Education and training programs and a full array of supportive services are offered to help students transfer to 4-year colleges, meet the workforce needs of industry, or improve critically needed basic skills.
But there’s more. ECC sees community colleges as institutional anchors to high road economies. They have important catalytic as opposed to supportive roles to play. They can create jobs through comprehensive campus sustainability efforts. They obviously can skill up the workforce for the full range of careers needed for a robust sustainability sector. They are well positioned to offer community education programs to align the awareness and behaviors of local residents and business to the realities of a conservation economy. They can help incubate green tech businesses by providing business development support services to budding entrepreneurs in their career technical programs. And just as importantly, community colleges can bring extensive intellectual, political, social and material resources of the faculty, staff, and students to the broader regional sustainable development movement.
What makes this all so very sweet – ala ECC’s sweet spot – is that community colleges are also important centers for advancing ECC’s equity agenda. Community colleges reach important populations often left behind or completely out of the mainstream economy – low income, communities of color, youth, disadvantaged and working class populations. Community colleges offer the ideal nexus between ECC’s environmental, economic and equity goals.
That is why we were excited about launching our national community college initiative last month. At full throttle we expect to really move the needle and institutionalize our efforts in the Bay area and other markets through our new partnerships with Peralta, San Francisco and New Hampshire Community College systems, and, hopefully more. Currently up to 23 campuses, more than 25,000 students and diverse set of educational resources are arsenals in our efforts to green our cities, build our communities and strengthen our democracy. ECC has organized an exceptional and mutually beneficial public-private partnership to bring the full economic potential of this initiative to scale. Oh Happy Day!