Andrea B. Bond
The State Energy Program/American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has provided $1 million to the West Virginia Community and Technical College System to develop curricula and certification programs in green-collar job training at its schools throughout the state.
Programs will be offered in four categories at the following institutions: Solar (West Virginia University at Parkersburg), Wind (Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College), Building Energy Performance (West Virginia Northern Community College and Pierpont Community and Technical College) and Energy Codes (Bridgemont Community and Technical College, New River Community and Technical College and WVU-Parkersburg), according to Sid Valentine, director of Workforce and Economic Development for the WVCTCS.
“Once the programs get up and running at those institutions, we will be able to use them statewide as well,” Valentine said. “We’re looking at not only training in the new degrees, but we’re also opening up certificates, we’re opening up skill sets and we’re opening up specialized training courses to familiarize individuals with all of it as well as offer them career pathways to whatever level they would like to go to.”
- Solar: Train and certify technicians to assess site suitability, install and maintain grid-connected and off-grid solar systems
- Wind (commercial and residential): Train and certify technicians to install and maintain wind turbines
- Building Energy Performance: Train and certify technicians to assess residential and commercial building energy use, before and after energy retrofitting. Train and certify technicians to install energy-saving measures such as windows, doors, insulation and HVAC system efficiency measures.
- Energy Codes: Participants (contractors, code officials, engineers, architects, building owners and operators) will learn requirements of the International Code Council’s most recently published energy code. The course will enable participants to apply energy codes to new construction and market buildings as energy efficient.
The curricula will be introduced in a staggered fashion, Valentine explained. “The wind curriculum is already in place at Eastern, and the other institutions are looking at doing kickoffs in the fall.”
So far, the wind program has been a smashing success. According to a story in the Moorefield, W.Va. News-Tribune, officials had expected about 100 people to attend an introduction to wind energy seminar in January at Eastern Tech. The final count was 233.
“We were just blown away,” said Ward Malcolm, who designed the wind program. “We ran out of chairs.”
In addition to the SEP/ARRA-funded curriculum, a weatherization program is being funded through the West Virginia Governor’s Office and the state Office of Economic Opportunity. It is scheduled to begin in June and will involve all 10 institutions, Valentine said.
“We’re going to start a career ladder all the way from weatherization tech up through auditor estimator. We will be able to break someone in with little to no experience in that field, and walk them through three or four career ladder steps to get them ultimately to a two-year degree, which would qualify them to be an auditor/estimator.”
Focus group studies have revealed that students liked the open format-career ladder process of the program, Valentine said.
“They could take a couple of classes and have a skill set, which will allow them to do something while they are continuing their education process,” he explained. “They’re very pleased with that. It gives them a lot more open-ended opportunity.”