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Quality Insider

SME and Purdue Unveil Green Certificate Program

Program offers new skills and hope for manufacturing jobs and the economy.

Published: Friday, September 4, 2009 - 15:20

In much the same way the Works Progress Administration of the Great Depression put millions of Americans back to work, there is great hope that green jobs will do the same during these current tougher-than-ever economic times.

What’s more, CareerBuilder.com recently named green jobs as one of seven careers “poised for growth.” But what are the skills needed to get one of these new economy jobs and just who will qualify for them?

Kris Nasiatka, manager of certification, books, and video at the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) has a few answers.

“There’s a perception that green jobs will only be about those in renewable energy like the solar panel installer or the wind turbine technician, but there are also green manufacturing jobs to consider,” she explains. “There’s the existing manufacturing job in the aerospace industry where a worker with skills in composites can almost seamlessly transfer to making wind turbines. Then there are manufacturing jobs that would be enhanced by green knowledge.”

“These types of jobs are ultimately good news for a former auto machinist, welder, or fabricator with in-demand skills, but who may need additional training to meet requirements for green manufacturing jobs,” she adds.

To help pave the way for those with specialized manufacturing skills looking to add sustainability to their body of knowledge, SME is collaborating with Purdue University’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP) to develop the Green Manufacturing Specialist Certificate.

The Purdue TAP curriculum focuses on such topics as sustainable manufacturing; energy efficiency; water conservation, reuse, and recycling; designing for the environment; and how different pollutants affect the environment.

“Generally the Purdue curriculum addresses three pillars of our work force development process known as awareness, education, and implementation—or applied learning,” says Dave Snow, director of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Center, Purdue TAP.  

In the program’s Green Enterprise Development curriculum, there are eight specific modules that lead progress through these pillars culminating in a process improvement activity “Waste Stream Mapping,” explains Snow. In each of the preceding seven modules, which total 56 hours of instruction and hands-on simulation, the curriculum addresses green concepts, key environmental issues facing manufacturing, and the components of sustainability. It then moves into more specific and technically applied topics of the business case for sustainability, implementing zero landfill methods/tools, energy and carbon footprint reduction, managing chemical use and waste, emission control, and lower costs in the operation and design of water systems. 

“We present these topics in a manner that small, medium, or large organizations in manufacturing, commercial, or institutional entities can appreciate and put to work in their organizations,” says Snow.  

The program came together as part of a U.S. Department of Labor-funded program in north central Indiana. “Our goal was to provide training that would help people become more effective in their existing jobs or help them transition to jobs with new companies in emerging ‘green’ industries,” says Ethan Rogers, manager, energy efficiency services, Purdue University TAP.

And while there are other green programs available, Rogers says that “no other program offers validation that a student has a comprehensive understanding of the many topics that comprise sustainable manufacturing. This is valuable to potential employers and by extension to students.”

This partnership includes SME developing an accompanying exam or outcome-based assessment, which will be tested by participants in the Purdue TAP green work force training program. Upon successful testing in Indiana, SME will offer the exam nationwide.

“The exam can be easily adapted to any green curriculum anywhere in the country. And once students pass it, they’ll walk away with a certificate of completion of in-demand, green job skills. We believe that this will be encouraging news for manufacturing job seekers looking to enhance their skills or make new career moves,” says Nasiatka.

Beyond a broad course of study, the Green Certificate program also offers varying levels of learning intensity.

“The generalist level is intended to provide awareness, while the specialist level is intended to create project champions who have a more comprehensive body of knowledge,” says Rogers. “Upon completion of the six specialist modules, they are ready to sit for the SME exam and earn an SME certificate. As the program and our partnership with SME progress, we envision additional levels that prepare plant engineers and project managers to lead plant and corporate sustainability programs.”

As far as interest and enrollment in the program, Rogers says it has already attracted a number of students and he expects enrollment to grow to “a couple hundred people sitting for SME’s certificate exam” by as early as 2010.

For more information, visit www.mep.purdue.edu.


About The Author

Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest’s picture

Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest

Dirk Dusharme is Quality Digest’s editor in chief.