While many colleges build training programs in response to local industry demand, BCCC has focused on a robust continuing education program. This has proven to be an extremely effective way to rapidly respond to the unpredictable and frequently changing technologies of the fluid regional clean energy sector.
BCCC’s efforts are even more fruitful thanks to its outreach to and programming for a specific population in need of retraining: U.S. military veterans returning from service.
Over the past several years, southern Bucks County, Pennsylvania, has lost once thriving manufacturing, chemicals production, and commercial construction industries and 23,000 jobs. Seeking a new employment base, the region focused on the possibilities of renewable energy—and specifically the wind sector. Gamesa, a leader in wind energy production and component manufacturing, made a $200 million investment (with 800 jobs) in the state, locating key operations in Bucks County. Gamesa saw an opportunity to capitalize on a workforce with skills similar to those needed to manufacture and assemble wind turbine parts. The company is now part of a cluster of energy companies, including a growing second tier of supporting businesses.
With a mix of state and federal funds and a training and real estate partnership with Gamesa, BCCC launched the Green Jobs Academy within its continuing education program in June 2010. Traditionally, BCCC was a two-year academic institution focusing on the transferability of degrees to regional four-year colleges and universities. But with the changing regional economy and employment base, BCCC sought to retrain dislocated and other disadvantaged workers for occupations in the growing energy sector. Through its Green Jobs Academy, BCCC retooled its non-credit trades programs and created new offerings to meet the industry’s—including Gamesa’s—need for skills training for incumbent and new employees.
The academy provides both long-term and shorter-term training programs for workers beyond wind technicians, with coursework in building performance, energy efficiency retrofitting, weatherization, solar technology, environmental remediation, and green construction. By creating these programs in a non-credit flexible format using curriculum modules as building blocks, BCCC can easily and quickly update the training to meet changing industry needs. Located in renovated industrial space, the academy provides equipment, classrooms, offices, and laboratories for hands-on training.
While the Green Jobs Academy was in the planning stages, BCCC secured American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds specifically targeting training and transition services for U.S. military veterans. The academy’s programs for veterans will combine technical training, development services, and internships and additional hands-on experience. BCCC developed the program in collaboration with the nonprofit Veterans Green Jobs, and will incorporate its adapted training materials and methodologies designed specifically for the learning styles that are common among veterans and other at-risk populations.
If you are interested in learning more about or replicating BCCC’s programs and the impact they are making in clean and renewable industry training, please follow the links and contacts below for more information:
Christine Gillespie, Assistant Vice President, Continuing Education and Workforce Development
Ronni November, Executive Director, Workforce Development