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Monday, September 14, 2009

Preparing students for a ‘green’ future

From an article by KJ Lang in the La Crosse Tribune:

Technical colleges in Wisconsin and nationwide are adapting to train workers for "green jobs" as the commitment to a sustainable future ramps up in the U.S.

Students are learning how to install solar panels and wind turbines, produce biofuels and do other work in renewable energy fields.

"We are really an important link to making sure the workforce matches this developing area and our country's transformation to alternative energy," said Dan Clancy, president and state director of the Wisconsin Technical College System.

While some schools within the Wisconsin Technical College System have developed new programs to respond to the trend, most simply folded renewable energy and sustainability concepts into existing classes, said Clancy.

The colleges also have been careful to tailor green programs to communities in which an economic opportunity already exists.

Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wis., started a wind energy technology program and built a small commercial wind turbine to take advantage of its prime wind energy location along Lake Michigan.

Western Technical College has no new renewable energy or sustainability programs, but several programs are growing greener, said Bill Brendel, dean of agriculture apprenticeship and technology at Western.

Student electricians now learn about solar energy, while the heating and air conditioning programs include information about geothermal energy. Automotive students can get lessons on biofuel or hybrid electric vehicles.

Western also is considering creating a certificate in renewable energy in conjunction with Madison Area Technical College, said Brendel.

Brendel compares the current shift to renewable energy and green alternatives to the 1970s growth in computer-related jobs.

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