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Maximizing opportunities in the solar industry

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The weatherization warehouse at Baltimore City Community College (Maryland) is a dedicated training space
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​Editor's note: This is an excerpt from the August-September issue of the Community College Journal, the bimonthly magazine of the American Association of Community Colleges.

Weatherization is advancing clean energy science. It yields huge economic benefits, such as cheaper household energy expenses.

Efficiency improvements achieved by insulating roofs and walls and upgrading an HVAC system may result in thousands of dollars in savings over the lifetime of a home, a boon to low-income residents, many of whom rely on weatherization assistance agencies.

But weatherization is good for more than helping families reduce energy bills. It adds good, attainable jobs to the economy — jobs that require technical training but don’t necessarily require a degree.

Hubs for training

Community colleges are playing a key role in preparing weatherization professionals. Training hubs exist at community colleges across the country, including Baltimore City Community College (BCCC), Bucks County Community College, Los Angeles Trade and Technical College, Metropolitan Community College, NorthWest Arkansas Community College, Pennsylvania College of Technology and Pulaski Technical College

The Solar Training Network is designed to help meet the workforce needs of the solar industry through solar training and strategic employment partnerships.With the only U.S. Department of Energy-approved National Weatherization Training Center in Maryland, BCCC is in a unique position to prepare students for careers in the renewable energy industry. The program seeks to provide skills training for employment opportunities in “green” industries while contributing to local efforts to make the homes of low-income families safer and more affordable.

“The challenge for BCCC and other training providers is identifying and preparing for future workforce trends while continuing to meet current labor market needs,” says BCCC President Gordon F. May. “The opportunity resides in our capacity to adapt to these changes and provide a needed bridge between gaps in an individual’s work skills and the requirements of industry.”

Economic engines

Community college programs that offer training for energy-efficiency jobs are “a form of economic stimulus in impoverished communities,” says Gregory Mason, vice president of business and continuing education at BCCC.

“Careers in renewable energy industries provide sustainable wages that will allow disadvantaged individuals to become independent of governmental support programs, increase their consumer buying power, and contribute to the economic system as taxpayers,” Mason says.

Weatherization professionals can be put to work almost immediately. There are no specific education requirements for insulation workers, although some complete an apprenticeship after earning a high school diploma.

The BCCC National Weatherization Training Center targets low-income residents, the unemployed, at-risk youth, dropouts and ex-offenders — people who will benefit most from the opportunities provided. The center is equipped with simulation housing units and specialized equipment. Training is covered by grant funding for students who meet eligibility requirements. Incumbent workers either pay for training themselves or are reimbursed by their employer.

Read the full article.

Linwood Outlaw III works in media and community relations at Baltimore City Community College in Maryland.

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