Green Jobs for a Cleaner L.A.

Our city is on fire, both literally, and figuratively. The fight against climate change is no less important than the battle our grandparents waged nearly 100 years ago, when the New Deal and our war economy transformed Los Angeles from an agrarian farming community into an industrial powerhouse.  

LA’s community colleges were at the forefront of this transformation.  Six of our nine community colleges were built between 1925 and 1950. These investments in public higher education produced the skilled workforce that our society and our changing economy needed, helping Los Angeles build a thriving, white middle class.

But as postwar Los Angeles grew blacker and browner, real investment in our community colleges declined, leaving generations of Angelenos unable to reap the benefits of our city's booming economy.

Los Angeles built only three new colleges from 1950 to 1975.  Since then, as Los Angeles slowly became a city with a Latino plurality, we have built no new colleges.  The $9 billion in construction bond money voters have approved for the District over the last two decades does not make up for 42 years of disinvestment by the state.  


The fight against climate change and for environmental justice is the biggest fight of our generation.  We must respond to this moment of environmental crisis by reinvesting in and reinvigorating our community colleges.  To make significant progress addressing income inequality and the impacts of climate change, L.A.’s Community Colleges need to be at the forefront of Green New Deal mobilization, just as they were at the forefront generations ago.  


It’s time to put out the fires raging around us, close our ever-widening wealth gap, and transform our city once again. This time, with 100% clean energy, millions of GREEN jobs, a healthier planet, and a truly thriving middle class that leaves no one behind.  This District needs a plan to get us from here to there.  



“As towns and cities go underwater, as wildfires ravage our communities, we're going to pay – and we have to decide whether we're going to pay to react or pay to be proactive.”  – Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

COVID-19 has contributed to the loss of nearly 90,000 green jobs in California, including 15,000 jobs in Los Angeles County alone.  As we work to re-construct Los Angeles for the future, there is a great opportunity to bring these jobs back, expand green employment and create a vibrant green economy.  We must continue to push policy-makers forward on these issues.  Other nations are already taking steps toward using the COVID-19 crisis as a catalyst for green economic and workforce development.  



Joe Biden has pledged to invest in the creation of 10 million clean energy jobs when he arrives at the White House.  Here in California, Governor Gavin Newsom has appointed Tom Steyer to lead our climate change task force.  In Los Angeles, Mayor Garcetti's Green New Deal calls for the creation of 400,000 green jobs by 2050.  L.A.’s community colleges must be prepared to respond to federal, state and local investments in decarbonization in both the private and public sectors.  The transition to a green economy will create work that simply doesn't exist today.  

At the same time, traditional utilities like the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Southern California Edison are facing a growing skills gap as jobs have become more technologically-focused in the energy industry – even entry level jobs.

Demand for green economy workers will also build outside of the energy sector.  Sustainable and organic food production are examples of environmental management fields that will drive employment moving forward.   According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment for agricultural and food scientists is projected to grow 7 percent over the next 8 years, faster than the average for all occupations. 

“A wide range of farming approaches and food businesses—based on organic, diversified, and regenerative farming and just labor practices—provide vital and practicable climate solutions.”  – Friends of the Earth 

For L.A.’s community college students to have equal employment opportunities and careers, we need more intentional programs designed toward building pathways into these emerging green economy fields.


Many jobs in the green economy pay high wages and don’t require a bachelor’s degree, but the green and clean energy sectors have been dominated by white men, and thus have major diversity, equity and inclusion issues. For L.A.’s community college students to have equal employment opportunities and careers, we need more intentional programs designed toward building pathways into these emerging green economy fields.



The District is a leader in sustainability when it comes to its own building projects. Thanks to the work of former Trustee Nancy Pearlman, the LACCD Board of Trustees adopted a policy to incorporate standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) into the District’s $9 billion construction program.  This summer, the District committed to eliminate its carbon footprint entirely over the next two decades. But while the LACCD is quite capable of awarding rich contracts to developers for LEED-certified buildings, it has made far less progress in preparing students for a green economy.  

Green jobs and clean energy jobs specifically pay better wages overall and they are varied enough to provide opportunities to students with a range of individual educational goals. Our community colleges are exactly where we should be building the talent pipeline we need to decarbonize our economy and address injustices.

While there are a variety of degree and certificate programs available across the District that will lead students to green jobs, particularly at Trade-Tech, the availability of these programs is uneven and they aren’t enough to meet the growing demand.


A recent Los Angeles Business Council Institute study noted that Los Angeles Trade-Technical College cannot meet future demand for training and workforce development on its own.  More must be done in this space, particularly as clean energy programs like community choice energy aggregation, drive investments in clean energy production.   


While other campuses offer classes in related subjects, they are not offering pathways to certificates or degrees that could lead students to jobs in the green economy.  


Los Angeles Southwest College is a frustrating example. Southwest College was founded after a decades long fight to offer more higher education opportunities to Black students. Sandra Cox, who was at the forefront of this effort, credited the Watts Riots as the catalyst to building Southwest College.

But other than offering some classes in environmental studies, today’s Southwest students have no certificate or degree programs in areas directly tied to the green economy.  As a result, Southwest students have limited pathways into green jobs, and this ultimately helps to exacerbate the diversity, equity and inclusion issues discussed above.

Los Angeles Pierce College has recognized this and has incorporated sustainability into several of its existing programs, but like Southwest, it has no certificate or degree programs in areas directly tied to emerging fields in the green economy. Given its existing agriculture programs, Pierce College would be an ideal home for a sustainable urban agriculture program.  L.A.'s Green New Deal calls for increasing the number of urban agriculture sites in the city by at least 25% by 2025 and 50% by 2035.  There is a role for our community colleges to play in helping the city reach this important goal. 


“We don’t need to accept the continued growth of low-wage jobs and racial and gender disparities. Public agencies are in a unique position to harness the power of public investment to ensure that climate policy supports good-paying jobs.”

– Dr. Carol Zabin, Director of the Green Economy Program, UC Berkeley Labor Center


We need to take a page from the work that others are doing in order to close the gaps that exist and ensure that L.A.’s community college students are receiving the opportunities to compete for these good-paying jobs as they are created.  


  • Create our own Equitable Clean Energy Jobs Program District-wide

    • Austin, Texas has created a Equitable Clean Energy Jobs Program through a partnership between the city, local institutions of higher education, nonprofits and private sector companies to address the talent pipeline issues and hiring practices that have created the inequities in this sector.  

    • This program would ensure that LACCD students are being trained in the jobs of today that pay livable wages.  


  • Use Measure CC bond money to invest in the spaces and equipment required for sustainable, green and clean energy workforce development. 

    • As technology is changing rapidly, we will need classrooms and labs that can easily adapt to emerging technologies. 

    • We will likely need more living labs and outdoor teaching facilities.

    • With the District committed to building green, we can build on existing living lab programs at Trade-Tech by introducing them to other campuses.  


  • Create green and clean energy career pathways at every campus.  

    • The current system is not equitable. This is one of THE most important opportunities for students and every community deserves the opportunity to have access to these types of jobs and careers.

    • We will need to create a coalition to direct the District Academic Senate to develop recommendations on the formation of programs at each of the District’s nine colleges. The object should be to foster green jobs and clean energy workforce development in tandem with federal, state and local investments in green job creation.  


The opportunity is here but the Los Angeles Community College district is behind where it should be.  This District has a lot of catching up to do in order to ensure that our students are able to compete in the emerging green job and clean energy economy. I want to help lead the way.

Courses and Programs Available by College in Green Economy Fields

Based on individual college course catalog information. 


Los Angeles Trade-Technical College

Trade-Tech offers programs in hard sciences as well as programs that can lead students to careers in the green economy through the college’s Construction, Maintenance and Utilities pathway as well as through the Applied Sciences and Advanced Manufacturing and Transportation pathways. Programs at Trade-Tech include certificate and degree programs programs in:


  • Biotechnology

  • Hybrid & Electric Plug-In Vehicle Technology

  • Photo Voltaic (PV) Solar Installation and Maintenance

  • Renewable Energy

  • Solar Thermal Installation and Maintenance

  • Water Systems Technology


Los Angeles City College 

LACC only offers programs in hard sciences as well as an introductory course in Environmental Science.  


East Los Angeles College 

ELAC offers programs in hard sciences as well as courses in Environmental Design, a certificate in Biotechnology and three A.A. degrees in Environmental Studies.


Los Angeles Pierce College

Pierce offers programs in hard sciences and has incorporated sustainability into its certificate and degree programs in both Agriculture and Architecture. The college also offers courses in Environmental Design and Environmental Science. 


Los Angeles Harbor College

Harbor offers programs in hard sciences as well as two certificate programs in biotechnology in addition to courses in Environmental Design and Environmental Science.  


Los Angeles Valley College

Valley offers programs in hard sciences as well as a certificate and a degree program in Sustainable Construction Management in addition to courses in Environmental Science and Environmental Studies. 


Los Angeles Southwest College

Southwest offers programs in hard sciences as well as courses in Environmental Science and Environmental Studies.  The word sustainability only appears in the Southwest College catalog 2 times (both in course descriptions for Environmental Science courses).  It appears 7 times in the Pierce catalog.  


West Los Angeles College 

West offers programs in hard sciences as well as a degree program in Climate Change & Environmental Studies.


Los Angeles Mission College

Mission offers programs in hard sciences as well as a certificate and degree programs in Biotechnology as well as a course in Environmental Studies. 


Note: Los Angeles Mission College does not have a current college catalog available on its website.  This information is based on the 2019-2020 catalog. 

Unfortunately, our colleges have made far less progress in preparing students for a green economy.

"If there was no rebellion, there would be no Southwest College" – Sandra Cox