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Back to School for Green Jobs

Mon, Apr 12, 2010

NCBR, Stories

Colorado, with all its sun and wind and geothermal hot springs, has gotten particularly excited about the creation of green jobs. The state expects to have 600,000 new jobs relating to renewable energy technology and energy efficiency development over the next 20 years. Sounds great, but a major component to the sustainable future becoming a reality is the emergence of a capable workforce.

The sun shines on solar-panel installers (image via Swords to Ploughshares)

In northern Colorado, community colleges and major universities are reaching out to potential students and tailoring programs to train for a range of green jobs, from smart-grid engineers to hybrid-vehicle manufacturing to solar-panel installation and maintenance. In the April 9, 2010 issue of the Northern Colorado Business Report, my column, “School’s in session for green job seekers,” covers the cresting wave of new programs, including an initiative at Colorado State University meant to attract returning military veterans to green jobs.

Two local community colleges are launching degrees that integrate some existing courses with directed concentrations for green careers.

From the article:

At the Larimer campus of Front Range Community College, a new Clean Energy Technology program is training students in operations and technical skills. Program director Glenn Wilson said an advisory board of local renewable-energy company leaders, who already acknowledge a lag in capable employees, helped develop program curriculum.

“It’s pretty new and unique,” Wilson said.

Students take a broad yet directed array of courses meant to prepare them for a range of responsibilities – tech development, manufacturing, facilities operations, maintenance – within renewable-energy industries.

“We think there’s going to be a lot of change and movement,” Wilson said, referring to the ongoing jockeying between solar, wind and other alt-energy businesses. “We’re teaching to the needs. I haven’t seen anything that offers this flexibility.”

Both local college programs are starting small (in terms of class size), but interest has been high so far, and it will be interesting to see how they grow and where their graduates land.

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