SMC Launches Jobs Through Recycling Program

Recycling at SMC includes worm composting

Santa Monica College, in collaboration with the California Works Alliance, officially launched Jan. 26 its new recycling and resource management job-training program, featuring Assistant U.S. Secretary of Labor Jane Oates as the kickoff speaker.

Dubbed “Jobs Through Recycling,” the program – which provides job training in the high-growth, high-demand field of resource management – began earlier this month with its first group of 100 students. By June, those students will be awarded industry certificates in recycling and resource management from the California Resource Recovery Association, a key partner in the California Works Alliance.

“Jobs Through Recycling” is funded by a $4.87 million Community-Based Job Training Grant awarded last year by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Oates praised SMC and its seven partners for the new training program, saying, “In these incredibly tough financial times, thinking smarter is what’s needed and is exactly what you’re doing.”

College officials said this program is important to SMC, not only because of the employment opportunities it creates but also because it underlines the college’s deep commitment to sustainability.

“This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for SMC to work with some of the nation’s most experienced and passionate leaders in the field of zero waste in creating a highly skilled and prepared workforce in resource management,” said Genevieve Bertone, SMC’s sustainability coordination project manager.

Bertone said “Jobs Through Recycling” will train and certify 660 students in the field of recycling and resource management and will place more than 400 highly skilled professionals in rewarding green jobs with upward mobility.

She noted that the recycling industry is as large as the automobile industry in America, and that 25 percent of all green jobs in California are in recycling. In addition, she said, research has shown that for every 10,000 tons of solid waste going to landfills, one job is created. That same amount of waste – if diverted from landfills – can create four composting jobs, 10 recycling jobs, and 75 reuse-materials jobs.

In addition to the certificate program, SMC has worked collaboratively with two other colleges, Irvine Valley and Golden West in Orange County, to develop a for-credit program in recycling and resource management. That program – believed to be the first of its kind – will be launched this fall and will provide students a state-approved certificate and also offer them the option to transfer to a four-year university, Bertone said. College officials hope that the regional job-training program will become a national model.

The program launch event took place during the Recycling Organization of North America’s National Conference, which SMC is hosting. Aside from speeches by Oates and other officials, the event included a campus “green” tour with a stop at SMC’s worm composting facility.

The “Jobs Through Recycling” program is a natural fit for SMC because the college has become known as a leader in sustainability, particularly recycling.

Its achievements include designing and constructing sustainable buildings, launching the Solar Photovoltaic installers training program, allocating funds for energy efficiency and solar energy projects, instituting a Zero Waste Events policy, and creating the Global Citizenship Initiative, which includes a cutting-edge ecological literacy component.

In the area of recycling, the college diverts 75 percent of its waste, including three tons of food waste each year that is composted in its worm composting facility and used as rich fertilizer by campus groundskeepers. Also, SMC is generating 60 percent less waste now than it did in 2006.

Oates, who is assistant secretary of employment and training administration, was nominated for the post by President Obama and was confirmed in June 2009. Her office works with states and territories, municipalities, labor management organizations, employers, educational institutions, fellow federal agencies, and other partners to assist workers in gaining the skills and credentials needed to enter careers that pay family supporting wages and offer opportunities for advancement.

(NOTE: This project was funded by a grant awarded under President Obama’s Community Based Job Training Grants as implemented by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. Grant No. CB-20565-10-60)