Green Jobs Conference Highlights Earth-Friendly Education

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Led by a cadre of public school students whose hybrid cars have just pulled ahead of elite automakers in the race for a $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize, the AFT zoomed into this year's "Good Jobs, Green Jobs" conference May 4-6 in Washington, D.C.

The AFT showcased its members who lead cutting-edge career and technical education programs and pioneering work in green building maintenance. A conference sponsor as well as a participant, the AFT joined other unions and environmentalists in pointing the way to a sustainable future of decent, well-paying American jobs. The conference drew many headliners, among them Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell.

The AFT conducted two workshops, one on green career training at public schools and colleges, and the other on developing maintenance and custodial skills through a new LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification program for existing buildings sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council.

AFT members also highlighted their work in an exhibit, "Building Green Futures Together," featuring solar, wind, automotive and biofuels instructors from Wisconsin's Milwaukee Area Technical College and the Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Mich. Many AFT members attended the conference from across the country.

students and AFT exhibit at Green Jobs conferenceThe AFT exhibit showed off six high school students and two adult leaders, math teacher Simon Hauger and team manager Ann Cohen, from West Philadelphia High School's Automotive Academy (pictured at left). Two cars re-engineered by the West Philly Hybrid X Team's 15 students—a Ford Focus sedan and a GT sports car—get more than 100 miles per gallon. Both made the latest cut May 1 in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize and will be competing in a "knockout round" June 20.

"Of the original 111 teams entered in the X Prize competition, only 28 remain. We are one of them," says Cohen. Among the teams that did not make the cut: MIT and Tesla Motors. Just before the Green Jobs conference, the X Team survived the competition's "shakedown" phase at the Michigan International Speedway, during which inspectors checked every bolt and connection. The X Team worked 14-hour days, running for parts and working through lists of corrections, tweaks and modifications. Read more on the project's Facebook page.

Representatives of the West Philly Hybrid X Team received a huge ovation from thousands of conference attendees on May 5, with the mayor of Philadelphia describing the city's pride in the team, and Gov. Rendell devoting the first part of his speech to how important the team's work is to math, science and technical education. The students have made presentations at several colleges and universities, including MIT, and have hosted representatives of the GM Volt hybrid car project. In April, they tested their aerodynamic modifications at Boeing's wind tunnel.

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka lauded the AFT for pioneering new career training programs in environmentally friendly technologies, and called on the entire labor movement to push ahead on green jobs in several areas: clean fuel on revamped power grids, sound buildings and public transit.

"Never before has the need been so urgent to produce clean energy, to use energy more efficiently, to prevent climate change and to protect our natural environment," Trumka told the crowd. "And not since the Great Depression have so many Americans needed new and better jobs."

The AFT is a member of the Blue Green Alliance, a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations dedicated to expanding the number and quality of jobs in the green economy.

May 6, 2010