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SEED Center highlights best practices in sustainability

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Northern Maine Community College wind power technology instructor Wayne Kilcollins (left) works with student Simon Tutlis in the Northern Maine Center for Excellence in Alternative Energy Training and Education.

Photo: NMCC 

Editor's note: This is an excerpt from an article in the December/January edition of the Community College Journal, the bimonthly magazine of the American Association of Community Colleges.

Facing decreased employment, the loss of family farms and the closure of the region’s largest employer, administrators at Northern Maine Community College (NMCC) are collaborating with local business partners on a new suite of higher education courses intended to prepare students for work in the emerging green workforce.

NMCC’s transformation is one of several stories featured as part of the American Association of Community CollegesSustainability Education and Economic Development initiative, a nationwide effort dedicated to helping community colleges build the green economy.

“We are committed to supporting and leading economic development efforts in northern Maine,” said NMCC President Timothy Crowley. “That leadership manifests itself in the building of networks and relationships that help better address expansion of our economy in very challenging times.”

In 2010, the Mobilize Northern Maine partnership launched a comprehensive planning process with representatives from the regional development commission, workforce development system, business community, nonprofits, government and higher education. The plan identified renewable energy technology as a key industry cluster and highlighted regional training and skill needs. NMCC, in its role as strategic convener, hosts collaborative meetings organized by the Northern Maine Development Commission.

The Mobilize Northern Maine partnership is moving to expand biomass conversion, small and large wind installations, and financing structures to support energy-efficient modifications throughout the region.

The partnership’s planning model fuels economic development through the business and higher education communities working to create residential and commercial renewable energy markets, products and businesses.

In May 2011, NMCC graduated its first class of 14 wind power technicians, placing almost all its graduates in jobs at regional wind power companies.

Center for renewable energy

In collaboration with the city of Presque Isle, NMCC further supports the region’s renewable energy economy with a 7,800-square-foot Renewable Energy Center of Excellence. Located in an industrial park close to campus, the facility has classrooms and hands-on laboratories for wind technology, solar, biomass and residential energy efficiency projects.

The college has secured more than $2 million in public and private investment and plans to train about 75 students per year through its academic programs and continuing education opportunities.

“Our efforts to provide leadership through Mobilize Northern Maine have allowed us to sharpen our focus on the potential and demand for a greener workforce,” Crowley said. “We are excited about the potential this has for the development of alternative energy resources and the rebirth of a strong manufacturing base in northern Maine.”

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