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Graduates of Santa Monica College Recycling Program Land Jobs

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By Lookout Staff

December 9, 2013
-- Some 260 of the 600 students who graduated from Santa Monica College’s “Jobs Through Recycling” program have landed jobs since completing their training, college officials said.

On Monday, the graduates of the pioneering federally funded program – which ended in June 2013 – will be recognized at a private ceremony at Long Beach City College.

Since the program was launched in 2011, SMC and its grant partners have trained students in the areas of recycling, sustainability, waste reduction, reuse, composting, resource management and zero waste, according to college officials.

“We’re proud that the program has produced such outstanding graduates,” said Michelle King, SMC director of career and contract education. “We hope that the event on December 9 will allow us to get an update on the career status of some students we’ve lost track of.”

One student who has quickly soared to the top is Laurie Johnson, who was recently hired for a vice president at Recyclebank, a New York-based “clean-tech” company recognized for its innovation.

“The program was outstanding,” Johnson said. “Not only was the curriculum relevant and the instruction professional, but the capstone project and efforts in connecting the course work to real world experiences and opportunities was invaluable and ultimately played an important role in qualifying me for my new position.”

Like Johnson, many of the graduates have landed jobs in the rapidly growing industry -- as recycling coordinators, environmental consultants, auditors and zero waste events coordinators, college officials said.

“Others have opted to take non-industry related jobs and directly apply the training they received to help businesses reduce waste to landfills and reduce the associated disposal costs,” officials said.

The program not only prepares graduates for jobs in an industry that is now as large as the automobile industry in America, it “underlines the college’s deep commitment to sustainability,” spurring the creation of a Recycling & Resource Management certificate and Associate of Arts degree at SMC, King said.

“The grant has allowed us to create a curriculum that will benefit the community for a long time,” she said.

SMC launched the program in collaboration with the California Works Alliance in January 2011 after receiving a $4.87 million Community-Based Job Training Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor as part of the federal stimulus package.

SMC’s grant partners included the California Resource Recovery Association, Golden West College and Irvine Valley College. Jewish Vocational Services, PACE Workforce Development Department and the Orange County One Stops also provided job training and placement services.

Recycling Organizations of North America assisted in seeking national input into the development of a standardized training program, which was adopted in June 2013.

With plenty of job opportunities in the recycling industry, which accounts for 25 percent of all green jobs in California, employers are tapping graduates of the “Jobs Through Recycling” program.

Cynthia Vant Hul, of Mariposa Eco Consulting in Upland and a member of the program’s Industry Advisory Board, said she hired five graduates from the “Jobs Through Recycling” program.

“These students are using the tools they learned in the program every day and creating solutions to increase awareness and reduce waste for the second largest school district in the nation, Los Angeles Unified School District,” Vant Hul said.

“Hiring the certification students has given my company the credibility it needs to earn future business and increased long-term projects,” she said.

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