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Green Workforce Development and Education Gaining Momentum

Sustainability experts and educators join forces to teach Maui County students how to prepare for a greener, more prosperous future. “It’s a great opportunity for local students, and a way to utilize the ‘āina.”

January 7, 2010
Sarah Ruppenthal

The school’s green curriculum is indicative of a growing trend in Maui County. In an effort to better prepare residents for the advent of a green economy, workforce development and education has “gone green,” and is steadily gaining momentum in several of Maui’s K-12 schools and at Maui Community College (MCC).

According to MOMI Head of School Cynthia Winans-Burns, the school has embraced a curriculum that fosters environmentally conscious youth and reinforces the Native Hawaiian concept of ahupua‘a, or land management.

“Guidelines for sustainability have been an integral part of our curriculum,” said Winans-Burns. “We want our students to make the choice to be green.” As a result, she said, the expansion “was a logical choice [and] a natural progression… once you start down a path, you can’t stop.”

Article Photos

The Montessori School of Maui recently completed another phase in an expansion project that included a rooftop photovoltaic system and rainwater irrigation system. According to school administrators, the transformation to a new, eco-friendly design was not only cost-effective, but it also taught students how to live in a more sustainable, environmentally responsible manner.
Photo: Rising Sun Solar & Electric

The field of renewable energy is also reenergizing the local workforce. Maui Community College’s Office of Continuing Education & Training (OCET) through the Vital Innovative Training & Economic Development Center (VITEC) offers “green classes” ranging from green building basics to wind power fundamentals. In addition, MCC’s Sustainable Living Institute of Maui (SLIM), in a partnership with Maui Economic Opportunity (MEO), will provide free training in energy management, including Small Business & Residential Management (SBREM) and Commercial Building Energy Management (CBEM) beginning this year. “We will be offering intensive trainings in energy management and solar photovoltaic technology,” said SLIM Director Alex de Roode. “The development and pilot phase of these classes are funded via grants from the State of Hawai‘i Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and are being administered in partnership with MEO.”

In addition, he said, “Experiential learning opportunities that prepare student for emerging green careers are also plentiful at MCC.  Opportunities such as sustainability internships, field trips, a growing campus-based living laboratory and sustainability demonstration site, and programs such as the Trades Apprenticeship Program offer students a plethora of hands-on learning opportunities that can significantly contribute to employment opportunities in Hawai‘i’s growing green economy and a greening of our local workforce.”

Local energy companies are also pitching in to encourage green workforce development and education. Matias Besasso, co-owner of Rising Sun Solar & Electric in Ha‘iku, agrees that instilling “green values” today is a promise for a better tomorrow.

Besasso said Rising Sun, which installed the PV system at MOMI, is committed to the idea of educating the public about renewable energy. “We hope to see Maui become the epicenter of green building,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for local students, and a way to utilize the ‘aina.”

By encouraging Maui residents to explore various green jobs and their specific training requirements, he said Maui could soon become a thriving microcosm of renewable energy experts.

John Bendon, owner of Green Building LLC, agrees with Besasso’s predictions. Bendon teaches the green building certification class at MCC, as well as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) training seminars and workshops.

“We have definitely seen an increase in interest in green building and in desire for education on the topic,” said Bendon. “The range of interest spans across a variety of disciplines, from the planning department and developers, to contractors and realtors.”

Bendon, who was born and raised on Maui but attended college on the Mainland, is eager to see green education flourish at home on the Valley Isle.

“Combining our education and project experience, we’re glad to be able to help lead the way to train others right here on Maui in this growing field,” he said. “The upcoming class at MCC is a great example of new training opportunities being brought to our state for the first time and is indicative of where this field is headed.”

MOMI Business Manager Cheryl Kaupololo said she hopes that all of Maui’s schools decide to try green on for size. “I think all of our schools should provide this kind of shift in education so that children will grow up thinking that this is the norm,” she said. “We need to teach our children to be kind to the world.”

For more information about the MCC-VITEC green classes, visit or contact MEO Community Services Director Gerry Lum at 249-2970.



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