GHC among WA colleges sharing $9.3 million to build a climate-ready workforce 

The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) will receive a $9.3 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to develop a climate-ready workforce. 

NOAA announced the grant at a news conference focused on the Climate-Ready Workforce for Coastal States, Tribes and Territories initiative.  

The NOAA grants aim to help Americans secure well-paying jobs to advance climate resilience in local communities, focusing on economically disadvantaged communities, people of color, and Indigenous people. 

Over the next four years, SBCTC will use the funds to support the “Tribal Stewards Program,” an initiative to cultivate a new generation of Tribal leaders and non-Tribal environmental co-stewards skilled in natural resources management. 

“Indigenous communities have a deep historical knowledge of sustainable environmental practices,” said Paul Francis, SBCTC executive director. “We aim to integrate this knowledge into community and technical college workforce programs to enhance climate resilience in Tribal communities and other communities throughout Washington.”  

The Tribal Stewards Program will involve training faculty to better serve Tribal students, integrating Tribal natural-resource knowledge into college workforce programs, and recruiting and supporting more Tribal students. 

The programs will be available both on campuses and Tribal lands, creating opportunities for Tribal students to enter natural resource careers and serve Tribal communities.   

Six community colleges will partner with five Tribes to advance the project: 

Additional collaborating organizations include employers, The Evergreen State College, the NOAA-affiliated University of Washington Climate Impacts Group, and the Office of the Washington State Climatologist

Maya Esquivido, a member of the Nor Rel Muck Wintu Nation and Hupa Tribe, co-created the Tribal Stewards Program and serves and a faculty training facilitator. 

She said the program supports the success of Tribal students in college and the workforce. “Our goal is to support pathways and reduce disparities in the natural sciences for Tribal students in the community and technical college system,” she said. “It’s crucial to acknowledge and incorporate traditional knowledge into course curricula.”

Graduates from the workforce programs, Tribal and non-Tribal students alike, will learn skills to contribute to collaborative efforts involving scientific advancements and climate resilience. Equipped with these skills, graduates will be prepared to secure well-paying jobs in natural resource management fields, create equitable community-based solutions, and help address the impacts of climate change. Students will also learn how to collaborate for effective co-stewardship of the environment. 

Irene Shaver, SBCTC climate solutions program manager, said the Tribal Stewards Program will teach students six key skills: climate adaptation, climate justice, integrating traditional ecological knowledge, Tribal natural resource policy and governance, leadership and communication skills, and environmental co-stewardship.

“The Tribal Stewards program will immerse students in place-based learning and create career pathways with Tribal and non-Tribal employers,” she said. 

All graduates will receive support in applying for available positions with partnering Tribal and non-tribal employers who have committed to hiring qualified graduates. The colleges and Tribes will also share their model partnerships and curriculum with all 34 community and technical colleges in Washington. 

The SBCTC grant was one of nine projects funded by NOAA in a competitive application process.

Other projects will be based in Alaska, California, Massachusetts, American Samoa, Hawaii, Louisiana, Ohio, Puerto Rico, and Texas.