"We read about it and see it all the time—families struggling," says Dave Snow, director of TAP's Manufacturing Extension Partnership. "To think you could be part of helping someone get a job to improve their quality of life is very gratifying; that really is a motivator for us."
The Frontline Green Worker Certificate is based on Purdue's nationally recognized GreenED curriculum, a more comprehensive program currently available in 16 states. Listen
The training is a result of funds in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) earmarked for the "green economy." Until the recent development of the Green Worker Certificate, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development struggled for several years to find an appropriate use for the funds that met federal requirements.
"We call it Frontline Green Worker, because that's exactly who it's aimed at: someone with a high school diploma or GED through an associate's degree," says Snow. "That's where the largest pool of displaced and unemployed workers is in our state."
Because the program is endorsed by the international trade organization Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), workers will "graduate" with an industry-recognized credential for learning about water conservation, air pollution, solid waste management, toxic waste minimization and energy management. Listen
"We see this as meaningful new resume material for someone who wants to go into the interview process with a fresh, new, emerging set of skills," says Snow. "I think it says a lot about a person when they can understand and articulate the value of being involved in the green side of making a company more efficient and saving money."
Snow says the primary goal of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership is to increase productivity for Hoosier manufacturers, helping the operations' bottom line. The advanced manufacturing industry has already embraced "lean" concepts—building a product in as few steps as possible, in the shortest amount of time, with the highest quality; Snow believes the Green Worker Certificate simply applies "lean" concepts to a different segment of manufacturing.
"When you apply [lean concepts] to areas like energy management or water conservation, you can determine if you could use your compressed air or water more efficiently; you can see the impact on your utility cost," says Snow. "[Sustainability] is another cost and efficiency project that is meaningful to manufacturing companies. To have people come in the door on day one and understand and respect that is of great benefit."
The three-day Green Worker training sessions are planned for the state's WorkOne facilities statewide beginning in May and will continue through January. The sessions will end with a SME-endorsed exam to earn the certification.
"The overall objective is that, after we train 500 people, a good percentage of those people will land new, higher paying jobs as a result of having that certificate," says Snow.
While finding meaningful careers for unemployed Hoosiers is the main focus, Snow believes the certificate program also enhances the university's workforce development capabilities.
"It's a very unique space; this curriculum does not exist elsewhere in the U.S. with the credibility that's associated with SME being the certificate-issuing organization," says Snow. "There's great potential for us to take this to the other 16 states where we're already doing the GreenED program. It goes beyond the opportunity to help Hoosiers; we can go into 16 other states and help folks there." Listen
Having involved Indiana employers with the development of the program, Snow is hopeful the companies will also consider hiring workers who have earned the certificate.
"This is something that's never going to go away," says Snow. "Companies are always going to be working on the bottom line, and [sustainability] is a great way to do it. Workers with these skills are going to have a definite advantage."