Posts Tagged ‘green jobs’

ATETV Episode 27: The Numbers Add Up

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

This week we begin by exploring Lasers and Photonics Technologies and Wind Energy technology, and end by focusing on the ways that community colleges are providing students with the core math skills they’ll need to succeed in both of these fields –as well as every other area of technology.

In our first segment, we meet Central Carolina Community College student Todd Devine, who is enrolled in the college’s Laser and Photonics Engineering program. “I have always liked lasers, and ever since I was little I was tinkering with things, and it’s just grown from there.” This lifelong interest is now evolving into a promising career path, with laser technology being used in fields as diverse as surgical procedures and music and video technology.

“Every day there is a new application coming out for lasers, so it’s creating a lot of jobs,” notes Central Carolina’s Gary Beasley. “And guess what? There are not enough technicians to support those applications in the medical field or in telecommunications.” But Central Carolina’s program aims to change that, and Todd Devine is proof positive.

“When I graduate, I think I am going to look toward the medical fields that are dealing with lasers, and help mankind in some way,” says Todd. “I want to do something useful for the world.”

Similarly, as we see in our second segment, the students in the Wind Energy program at Wyoming’s Laramie County Community College are also looking at their technology curriculum as important not just for their careers, but also for our environment and our society.

“When my students come to class, people aren’t sleeping,” says Laramie’s Michael Schmidt. “They are very focused on what they are learning. These people are excited.”

The Wind Energy program is designed to prepare technicians to go into the wind industry to repair utility skill wind turbines, large commercial machines with complex control systems that allow them to produce energy efficiently and to maximize capability. The highly skilled students who emerge from the program are versed in all aspects of wind energy technology, from introduction to wind power, to electricity, hydraulics, and all of the basic core skills needed to excel in the field.

And essential to students’ success is a firm foundation in mathematics. “Math and science are very critical,” adds Michael Schmidt. “Mathematics, specifically, apply to the technical part of the program. Our technicians have to have an understanding of how power is produced. They have to have an understanding of power quality because this power is ultimately delivered to a utility, ends up on a grid and is then delivered to the consumer.”

Which brings us to our third segment, which shows us why community colleges are great places for students to get up to speed in algebra, calculus and other core math skills.

“All technology goes back to math,” notes Scott Edwards of Juniper Networks. “The more you know about math, the better you understand it, and the more clear will be the complex topics that you are going to learn in the future.”

And community college programs provide the support and guidance to enable students to tackle the challenges of higher level mathematics. As Laser and Photonics student Todd Devine tells prospective students, “If you are struggling with math in high school right now, [you should know] that if you just study hard and work through it, it will all pay off.”

Adds Andrew Maynard of the Springfield Technical Community College faculty, “The nice thing about community colleges is that if you are not up to speed in math — whether because you’ve been out of school for awhile or because you had trouble with math in high school — we offer remedial classes to help bring you up to the college level, so you don’t fail.”

And, as this week’s episode shows, success in math translates to success in any technology career.

Home Energy Audits: Greening Your Home, and Saving You Money

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

In the past couple episodes, we’ve focused on home energy audits as a growing source of good, green jobs that can’t be outsourced. Today we’re going to take a look at the process from the homeowner’s perspective, explaining what goes into an energy audit and what actions homeowners can take to save energy and money.

According to Sinclair Community College Professor Robert Gilbert (featured in this week’s episode), a home energy audit looks at four different aspects of a home’s energy efficiency. First, technicians determine how well-insulated the building’s walls, ceilings, windows and foundation are. Gilbert says that up to 60% of a home’s heating and cooling costs are due to “air infiltration.” By blowing air in through the doorway of the house and measuring the pressure inside, technicians can measure how airtight a home is and where the leaks are.

Second, technicians test the mechanical parts of the house: the heating and cooling systems, major appliances like washers and dryers, and even the type of lightbulbs a home has. But just as important as what stuff a home has is how the folks inside use it, which is the third part of the audit. Technicians look at when residents are home, what temperature the thermostat is set to and even how often the TV is on. Finally, technicians will look at utility bills to see exactly how much fuel and electricity the home is using.

Gilbert credits tax rebates and incentive programs offered by utility companies and state and Federal governments for the increased demand for audits — and, by extension, for audit technicians. Another factor is that more homeowners are realizing that small steps can lead to big savings on their utility bills.

A home energy audit is a great way to get your home to peak efficiency, but you don’t have to wait to start saving. To save electricity, Gilbert suggests replacing incandescent light bulbs with florescent models; turning off lights in unoccupied rooms; plugging TVs and other electronics into power strips, and turning them off when not in use; and unplugging items like cell phone chargers, which drain electricity even when not in use.

To save on heating and cooling, Gilbert suggests turning down the thermostat at night and when you aren’t home; programmable thermostats are particularly handy for this. And if you’re up for a do-it-yourself project, caulking and foaming over areas where air is leaking out of the house can result in big savings.

You can find more helpful tips and information on energy audits online. Energy Star, the energy efficiency program run by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, has a page where you can find a professional energy audit company near you and compare your energy usage to that of other homes in your area.

Thanks to Professor Gilbert for his help this week and for his practical energy-saving tips!

ATETV Episode 22: More on Green Jobs and Industry Partnerships; Plus, Computer Careers

Monday, February 15th, 2010

This week, we’re continuing with a couple of topics from recent weeks: industry partnerships and green jobs. We’re also profiling a young father who’s fitting in his own homework in computer security between helping his kids with theirs.

First, we head to Bristol Community College to profile the partnership between the ATE program there and the local environmental and mechanical engineering industries. At Bristol, that partnership translates to input on curriculum via an industrial advisory board, and access to valuable internships like the one student Mike Poitras completed at a desalination plant.

Mike’s position at the plant is the kind of job that can’t be outsourced. The same goes for the energy technician jobs that Sinclair Community College is training its students to fill. The demand for these positions making buildings more energy efficient already outstrips the supply of workers, and the gap is widening. “The problem is not going to be a market” for these service, predicts Mike Train of Certified Energy Raters LLC. “It’s going to be having boots on the ground to service that market.”

One reason energy conservation is becoming a hot topic is the amount of electricity that our computers and other digital devices are consuming. At Springfield Technical Community College, student Francisco Nofal studying computer security, another hot career in our increasingly wired world. Francisco enrolled at STCC after a layoff. Now he’s balancing his studies with being a husband and father. “I get homework, they get homework, so I can’t do mine when I get home. I gotta wait, help them with theirs.”

Hopefully for Francisco all that homework will pay off, for him and his kids. Tune in next week for three more ATE success stories like his!

Growing Green Jobs

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Last week’s State of the Union address was all about jobs, and one promising avenue for job growth the President highlighted is the new green economy.

In his speech, Obama framed the need to invest in those types of jobs in terms of keeping pace with international competitors like China, Germany and India. “These nations aren’t playing for second place. They’re putting more emphasis on math and science. They’re rebuilding their infrastructure. They’re making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs.”

Indeed, according to a New York Times report, China is now the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines and is making gains in other green fields as well.

If America wants to keep up, ATE programs at community colleges will be vital to training new green workers and retraining older workers for new green jobs. Perhaps that’s why President Obama repeated his call for more funding for community colleges in his speech last week, calling them “a career pathway for the children of many working families.”

There are two sides to greening the economy: investing in new renewable energy projects or cleaner transportation infrastructure like high-speed rail; and improving energy efficiency in order to better conserve heat and electricity. We saw an example of each of these types of green jobs in this week’s episode. At Laramie County Community College in Wyoming, students are learning how to operate and maintain the wind turbines that are popping up across the West.

Meanwhile, at Sinclair Community College, students are working with local affordable housing groups to conduct green energy audits and weatherize homes. And both of these types of jobs need to be done here, in America; they can’t be sent overseas.

The hope is that last year’s unprecedented federal investment in basic scientific research will seed a new green manufacturing sector, building advanced batteries and solar cells. That will mean new green jobs for laid-off manufacturing workers, but first they’ll be need to be retrained. And ATE programs at community colleges across the country will be on the front lines of that training.

Click here to read about some of the green job titles expected to see the biggest growth in the coming years.

The Coming Green Economy: A Q&A with ATE Conference Keynote Speaker Debra Rowe

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

One of the highlights of the recent ATE Conference was keynote speaker Debra Rowe’s presentation Education for a Green and Sustainable Future. Professor Rowe did a great job explaining the new jobs the green economy is going to create, why we need them, and how ATE programs can adapt to meet the coming demand.

Rowe22

Photo Credit:  MCPA

For 29 years, Professor Rowe has taught energy management and renewable energy at Oakland Community College.  She is also the president of U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, which coordinates sustainability initiatives among business, education and government.  Among many other projects, the partnership helps educators communicate their work in green tech to the general public. Read her full bio.

We asked Dr. Rowe to elaborate on some of the ideas in her speech.

ATETV: What changes in the green tech industry during the last 5-10 years are the most exciting for you? What additional ones do you feel are on the horizon?

Debra Rowe: The recognition that there are business opportunities that will simultaneously create healthier ecosystems and economies; the awareness that our economy is presently modified to support fossil fuel use — it is so easy to hook up to a dirty coal fired power plant, but if you want solar on your house, you have to pay the whole price up front. New policies can fix that, thereby increasing clean and domestic renewable energies that will create new jobs, less pollution, and more health as well.

ATETV: How do students from Oakland Community College, and other colleges benefit from the new “green economy?”

DR: We can infuse this green and sustainability understanding into all of our degrees and certificates, and engage students in solutions that will both benefit them personally and benefit society as well.

ATETV: How has this economy changed existing career options?

DR: There are over 100 new green job classifications, and many existing careers need an infusion of green and sustainability knowledge and actions. It has expanded career options and requirements to know green and sustainability principles for many jobs.

ATETV: Why is the demand for technical graduates so high with degrees in green tech?

DR: It is high in some areas and not in other areas, but it will continue to grow. It is high because we are finally getting rid of misinformation and bad local, state and federal policies that were in the way of a green economy.

ATETV: One of the most notable references from your speech was the term “arm chair pontificator” and your call to “educate to action.” For ATETV followers that were not able to hear you in DC, what does this mean?

DR: In higher ed, we have been emphasizing critical thinking. This can produce graduates who can analyze a situation but don’t have the skills and attitudes to go into the real world and make effective change. I call these people armchair pontificators, because they go on and on about what is wrong with the world but then don’t take action. We need to teach and give students chances to practice how to be effective change agents.

ATETV: What is your related advice for them?

DR: Change the curricula to work on real-world problem solving for sustainability, teach all students about our sustainability challenges, and give them multiple opportunities to learn change-agent skills and engage in solutions by incorporating this into courses in all disciplines. Many colleges are already moving in this direction.

For more information on the new categories of green jobs, check out this PowerPoint presentation by Carolyn Teich of the American Association of Community Colleges.