Community colleges making it core part of their missions

Pamplin Media Group, Oct 14, 2010


Lots of people talk a good line about sustainability principles, but how do you land a job putting them into practice?

A good place to start is local community colleges, where the seeds of Portland’s “green-collar” work force are being cultivated.

Portland Community College, Clackamas Community College and Mt. Hood Community College offer a host of career-oriented classes under the broad umbrella of sustainability education.

(news photo)

(Right to left) Linda Gerber, Sylvania Campus president; Erin Sanforth, sustainability coordinator; and PCC President Preston Pulliams talk about the college’s Climate Action Plan under the new wind turbine.



Portland Community College

PCC enrolls more students than any other Oregon institution of higher education and aims to be a leader in green-jobs training.

Renewable energy courses train students to install and repair solar energy systems; design, construct and maintain sustainable buildings; and work on hybrid and biodiesel vehicles. The school is Oregon’s first community college to revamp its automotive repair technology program to include hybrid vehicles, with plans to develop new classes in electric vehicle repair.

PCC also is seeking state approval for new programs in sustainable engineering, training for green-building inspectors and building green roofs and walls.

Starting this fall, the Civil and Mechanical Engineering Technology program will offer the Green Technology and Sustainability Option. Students will perform lab tests for water quality and produce biodiesel from school cafeteria waste oil.

PCC’s four main campuses — Rock Creek, Sylvania, Cascade and Southeast Center — plus a number of its other centers, are becoming more sustainable in their operations. The new Willow Creek Center in Hillsboro, for instance, is a LEED platinum building, a step above gold on the rating system used by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certifying body.

Alexander de Roode, PCC sustainability manager, says green buildings are better for the environment and provide educational tools.

“What you see around you is how you’re learning,” de Roode says, “not just by sitting in a classroom.”

Along those lines, the Sylvania campus has a demonstration wind turbine. The Rock Creek Environmental Studies Center features about 100 acres of natural terrain, native plants and wildlife.

Clackamas Community College

Clackamas Community College also has its own natural area — the John Inskeep Environmental Learning Center — a 5-acre site once used as a jam cannery.

Technical education is available through Energy & Resource Management and Environmental Science courses. The Renewable Energy Systems Technology program trains students for careers in installing, manufacturing and maintaining renewable energy systems such as geothermal and solar.


CCC’s horticulture program includes classes on composting, pesticide-free pest control and organic gardening. A program in the manufacturing department teaches students how to repair wind-turbine blades.

Plans are in the works to build a new center for renewable energy and sustainability.

Mt. Hood Community College

The mountain name for the Gresham college isn’t just for its Mount Hood views.

The Wilderness Education program is the only collegiate-level academic program in the Northwest affiliated with the Wilderness Education Association. The college also is an affiliate of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

A Natural Resources Technology degree includes options for Forest Resources and Wildlife Resources. Or students can study Tourism and Outdoor Leadership, leading to careers in eco-tourism and outdoor education.

Mt. Hood’s Sustainable Building Advisor Training Program teaches working professionals such as architects, engineers and developers about the newest requirements for state-funded building projects and the growing demand for green buildings.

Community colleges are “helping to shape the minds and the knowledge of the future leaders that are going out into our communities,” says PCC’s de Roode.

“A strong foundation and understanding for sustainability is key.”


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