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Voice of Denver: Green Building Education Key to City's Future

Jim Payne serves as VP of Marketing and Director of Business Development for BOULD, a Denver-based company focused on sustainability and green building education. Payne says we need to rethink the educational paradigm when it comes to making construction more sustainable.
Positive change in our world is not without its fair share of challenges. 
The green building industry defies market convention, maintaining growth during a recession, adding to its already impressive market share, with 50 percent of all new construction aiming to seek 'green' certification by 2015. However, to maintain this incredible rise, the industry requires a skilled and trained workforce, equipped to handle new practices.
A 2012 McGraw-Hill Construction study paints the perfect picture of conditions inhibiting continued progress for expanding green markets in one sentence: "While an increasing amount of builders are conforming to more environmentally friendly standards, 86 percent of Architecture/Engineering firms, and 91 percent of General Contractors find green skilled employees difficult to hire."
McGraw-Hill recognizes that 48 percent and 38 percent of A/E firms and General Contractors have jobs available for skilled green workers, respectively. Where’s the disconnect? Why can’t we fill these jobs and accelerate this crucial industry forward? The problem is what experts are calling the "experience gap." There is a clear impasse between persons seeking employment, and potential employers.
Denver is home to several amazing architecture and design firms that are on the forefront of green building. As the economy recovers, they require entry-level professionals to contribute immediately, with skills, knowledge, and experience acquired during their education. Unfortunately, traditional education can no longer be relied upon to keep students on the forefront of their fields, and with limited time and funds, employers cannot provide necessary training.
This gap is the reality for graduating college students across all sectors. College degrees are not aligning with the needs of modern employers, and this grim reality is further confirmed by a 2012 report by The Atlantic, indicating that 53 percent of 2012 college graduates are underemployed or unemployed. As more and more graduates enter the job market every year, their acquired knowledge continues to mean less and less to employers. Hiring agencies want to know how their personnel acquisitions have used their knowledge and skills, no just which skills they have. 
Despite growth in the industry, long gone are the days of simply finding a job upon completion of a bachelor’s degree. Recent graduates who have accomplished the bare minimum during their education will surely have difficulty during their job search. It has become more important than ever before for college students to differentiate themselves from their peers for the sake of being competitive in a difficult job market. Students who commit to growing, achieving and gaining serious experience that employers demand will find themselves employed, and the rest will scratch their heads.
Prior to the economic downturn in 2008, recent graduates relied on their employers to spend time and resources integrating them into the company and providing them with the experience they need to be successful. Today, funds are too slim for this to continue. It falls on the individual to set themselves apart. Until education catches up, entry-level professionals must diligently pursue any opportunity to grow personally, so they may provide value to employers. Success comes with proactivity, not reactivity. Abraham Lincoln said, "Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle." These are wise words that every young building professional in Denver needs to take to heart if they desire to truly make an impact through meaningful careers.
Denver continues to expand and develop with tremendous focus on sustainability in our built environment. If our amazing professional assets already in place cannot be supplemented and supported by local graduates, how can recovery continue? Denver is home to incredible schools and universities, who are committed to sustainability, and our city needs them to lead the charge. It is more important than ever for them to forge the professionals and graduates that Denver’s firms need to continue their work, both locally and elsewhere, to create efficient and enduring buildings, built to stand the test of time.

Jim Payne serves as VP of Marketing and Director of Business Development for BOULD, a Denver-based company focused on sustainability and green building education. A Denver native, Jim is obsessed with this city, and everything it offers.

Voice of Denver is a biweekly featured post from Denver's entrepreneurs, experts and raconteurs. Contact us if you'd like to stand on our soapbox.
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