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Good Jobs And the Environment: We Choose Both

One of the main goals of Protect PT’s Municipal Sustainability Project is to bring green jobs to Southwestern PA. When local workers get paid a living wage to put American-made solar panels on the roof of your municipal building, that benefits everyone. The community gets cleaner air, the costs of operating the municipal building go down, and the workers get paid.

Having grown up in Southwestern PA, I understand that folks here are nostalgic for the heyday of steel, and that—deep down—many of us believe there will never be another boom time like that. Where you could graduate from high school, immediately get a job that could sustain a whole family, and stay with that job for 50 years.

We need to build a community together where that is once again possible.

When I was invited to serve as a volunteer member of Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato’s transition team this past winter, I made this my main point. I argued that the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) was an underutilized tool in the clean energy transition. It should be preparing local students for futures in 21st century jobs.

I was thrilled to see these policies included in the County Executive’s final All In Allegheny Action plan:

“Expanding Community College of Allegheny County’s (CCAC) existing green job training programs and updating programs to incorporate green technology, delivering on the community priority of “expand opportunities for youth and students to gain skills that could help access jobs that make our air, energy, and water cleaner.” For example, students in the automotive training program now receive training on the safety, maintenance, and repair of electric vehicles, and students learning about facilities maintenance now receive training on ways to improve energy efficiency in buildings. 

• CCAC will partner with organizations, including the Green Building Alliance, to expand

existing programs and deliver training at a central location so it is more accessible to

students countywide. CCAC’s green job training programs have connected students to more than 150 jobs. Over the next year, CCAC will expand this program to serve another 30-50 students and make the training available at two additional campuses, including West Hills Center and Allegheny Campus, but utilizing the new Center for Education, Innovation, and Training. 

• CCAC will invite employers in the green economy as Advisory Board members, helping to shape their training programs so they offer pathways into jobs that make our air, energy, and water cleaner.”

The plan to train local students on energy efficiency improvements to buildings also directly dovetails with a procurement policy passed in 2022, which requires Allegheny County to improve the efficiency of its buildings any time it is building something new or conducting significant retrofits. This is creating some jobs that CCAC will now be training local students to perform!

These are steps in the right direction. We’d also like to see CCAC become free for Allegheny County residents, or—at the very least—for the County to start paying its fair share of tuition. And, of course, we’d like to see Westmoreland County follow suit and use WCCC to its fullest potential.

When you’re talking with local elected officials and your neighbors about the risks of oil and gas development, it can’t hurt to remind them that there are cleaner ways for folks to make a living. Our region should embrace them.


Tom Pike is Protect PT’s Environmental Policy Advocate. He was born and raised in Murrysville.

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1 Comment

I agree! Part of my past included becoming a vocational educator. I have to tell you that the training you have described fits the same matrix. In fact, I have been trying to tell the Gateway School Board for years that Monroeville has a perfect location to rebuild its job opportunities and latter to higher education. Here in Monroeville, we have Forbes Vo-Tech Center... It's basically across the street from CCAC Boyce campus.

Have these students transition from high school to vocational/technical training so that you have an articulation on the curriculum. Let's make this happen!

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