The South's historical dependence on disappearing agriculture and manufacturing industries has left the region with a disproportionate number of displaced, low-wage workers and high-poverty communities. Through Career Pathways for a Green South, MDC is helped low-wage and unemployed workers find work in emerging green industries. Through partnerships with four communities in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina that have suffered manufacturing job loss in recent years, MDC is bridged gaps between individuals and training that leads to credentials and employment in green jobs. The work was funded by a U.S. Department of Labor Education and Training Administration Pathways Out of Poverty grant, authorized as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support programs that help disadvantaged individuals attain economic self-sufficiency through good jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy industries.
The participating colleges were: Central Piedmont Community College (Charlotte, NC), Mountain Empire Community College (Big Stone Gap, VA), Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College (Orangeburg, SC), and Trident Technical College (North Charleston, SC). Each college formed a partnership of nonprofit organizations, the public workforce investment system, labor organizations, and public and private employers to recruit, train, and place participants in jobs. Each college offered a weatherization program, but the different campuses have tailored additional training to local needs, including green integrated systems and alternative energy technology. Colleges provided basic skills training where necessary, and connected students to supportive services (case management, transportation, child care) that helped them stay in training. All training programs led to industry-recognized credentials, from National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and Building Performance Institute certificates to AAS degrees. The credentials and courses were chosen in collaboration with local businesses and employers. Graduates are prepared for employment in weatherization and construction as well as the nuclear, hydroelectric, wind, and solar energy sectors.