Just how cool is it when, as happened at the White House last week, President Obama gives a shout out to technical programs in community colleges?–after all, the guy has actually met the Mythbusters! But for sheer celebrity glamor, I’ll take Ed Begley, Jr.’s blog over a White House Summit any day.
A staunch advocate and very public practitioner of green living, and community college alumnus, Begley draws our attention here to The SEED Center, an initiative of the American Association of Community Colleges that consolidates national efforts to promote green-tech training. I’m guessing that most Huffington Post readers don’t normally see a lot of excited talk about technical education and Begley puts the topic, at least for a blog-minute, before us with palpable enthusiasm.
I don’t know…Maybe it was Obama’s invocation during the Summit of Home Depot and The Gap as optimal sites of economic opportunity for community college graduates. Sure: Corporate engagement with community college initiatives like the White House’s new Skills for America’s Future might be better than nothing, an acknowledgment that whole communities in the nation are without significant training and employment opportunities. But these are companies predicated on the perpetuation of many low-skilled jobs and highly stratified workplaces, not to mention on the utterly unsustainable premise of limitless consumption. Somehow Begley’s excitement about community college training for jobs in clean energy enterprises came off as more thoughtful and even more earnest than the President’s.
We don’t want to lose track of the questions we have about such boosterism (see this blog’s past postings). Other supposedly booming sectors, like biotech and nanotech, have not yet fulfilled their promises of considerably widened economic opportunity. And care is needed when we think about “green work”: Not all green enterprise makes conservation as much of a priority as one might hope, as this commercial sector by definition pursues economic growth through new energy-related goods and services.
I also continue to wonder why community colleges and universities can’t together restructure technical occupations so more jobs involve more creativity. Why should community college grads “build and operate” wind turbines while engineers do the designing? Surely there are ways to integrate these stages of technical work to produce more effective technologies and more jobs with real creative depth and greater promise of economic mobility.
But if we are going to stretch the 15 minutes of fame currently being experienced by America’s community colleges into lasting educational, economic and environmental reform, supportive gestures like Ed Begley, Jr.’s will certainly help!