Even with the largest land-based oil production capacity in the United States, Kern County, California, is developing wind and solar installations that by 2014 will generate 4,000 megawatts of electricity—enough to power a significant part of the 1 million homes in the south central part of the state served by the county. Over the past four years, the region has cultivated multibillion-dollar investments from wind, solar, and utilities companies, making Kern County a national hub for clean energy job growth and creating strong demand for workers with updated and, in some cases, entirely new skill sets.
Facing a weak national economy, extreme state budget shortfalls, and the needs of a growing industry spread across tens of thousands of square miles, Kern County Community College District (KCCD) has emerged as the lead college responding to this workforce demand. The college leads an important regional consortium developing a collaborative and aligned training network for area employers and students.
As an early initiator and leader in industry-driven training in this region, KCCD built upon the success of its Cerro Coso College campus’ Wind Technician Boot Camp and created the Clean Energy Center to train utility-scale solar and wind operations and maintenance technicians as well as residential and commercial energy auditors and solar installers. The Center serves as the anchor to the Clean Energy Industry Driven Regional Collaborative (Clean Energy IDRC), a consortium of more than 15 colleges, workforce boards, economic development organizations, industry representatives, and local and state agencies.
IDRC was created to address a critical reality: Industry and job growth were occurring across many counties with no single training provider in the region that could serve all industry workforce needs. As operator of IDRC, KCCD ensures that training is highly relevant and consistent across colleges, and curriculum is tied to specific industry standards. KCCD leads grant writing and successfully leverages the partnership’s significant training resources among state, local, and federal agencies. All consortium parties acknowledge that to maximize results, planning and development must be collaborative, and assets such as faculty knowledge and external funding must be shared and integrated into the consortium’s framework.
KCCD has leveraged this partnership to secure a number of sizable training grants that have already addressed the impact of regional layoffs and provided retraining tied to real area employment opportunities.
KCCD’s regional collaboration is developing and implementing training for three rapidly growing clean energy industry sectors:
Transportation – technical training for automotive and truck mechanics in alternative fuel and hybrid vehicle repair.
Energy-Efficiency – technical training for building construction trades people in home energy audits and energy efficiency upgrades.
Green Building, Solar Photovoltaic Technology, and Utilities – training for new, entry-level workers and/or retraining of existing workers in intermediate utility and renewable power generation.
KCCD is a North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) approved training provider, offering entry-level solar (photovoltaic) training and the NABCEP entry-level exam.
Specifically, KCCD offers the following green courses and training programs:
PowerTech (Utility Worker) – five weeks, 175 hours, aimed at entry-level positions with utility companies and utility contractors.
SolarTech – seven weeks, 245 hours, targeted to entry-level positions with utility-scale solar companies (both thermal and photovoltaic) as well as residential/commercial installation.
WindTech – nine weeks, 315 hours, for entry-level operations and maintenance positions in utility-scale wind and wind turbine companies.
Pink and Green Pre-Apprenticeship – introduces women to the green jobs industry and a variety of apprenticeship trade opportunities such as electricians, solar and wind technicians, plumbers and pipe fitters, building retrofitters, and sheet metal workers.
Introduction to Green Economy Jobs – 44 hours, developed and delivered to 24 Green Job Corps participants; scheduled to be repeated five times over 18 months.
Farm Worker Institute for Education and Leadership Development as Solar Photovoltaic Technicians – 60 participants, held in December 2009.
Wind Boot Camps – offered three times to a total of 90 participants.
Train-the-Trainer Workshops – training for 25 regional faculty members to incorporate wind technician training into existing programs at their home campuses.
To learn more about how KCCCD’s efforts to serve the needs of students, green energy employers, and communities, please contact:
Dave Teasdale, Director, Clean Energy Center
John Means, Associate Chancellor, Economic and Workforce Development