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Students discover power and possibility of renewable energy as a career
New Solutions Stories video: a partnership between Columbia Gorge Community College and Focus the Nation highlights the renewable energy workforce as a driving factor in rural economic development.
Columbia Gorge, OR As college graduates explore the workforce, they must not only contend with rising debt from student loans but high jobless rates as well. Yet the still-growing field of renewable energy is an engine of job growth, creating new positions in every corner of the world – including Oregon and Washington, where a partnership between Columbia Gorge Community College and Focus the Nation highlights the renewable energy workforce as a driving factor in rural economic development.
“Caring about renewable energy is not something we want college students to do just because it’s trendy to do in college,” said Garett Brennan, Executive Director of Focus the Nation. “What we are doing with these students is adding this other dimension of professionalism, leadership development and team management. Skills that will further enable them throughout the entirety of their career, not just their next job.”
In 2007, Columbia Gorge Community College (CGCC) launched its Renewable Energy Technology (RET) training program, the first such program on the West Coast and one of only three in the nation at that time. Initially taking only 20 students a year, the program aimed to provide a highly trained local workforce to the many wind farms cropping up in the area and has trained 274 RET students since the program began. One of the driving forces behind the creation of the training program was the number of local renewable energy technician positions projected over the next few years – more than 1,200 at the peak of wind farm siting and construction. That number has since stabilized, but wind generation continues to demand technicians, managers and other specialists. And more jobs are being created through solar, geothermal and other clean-tech investment.
View the inspiring story here or use this embed code:
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“Even with thousands of jobs created over the past decade, rural America still generates new jobs every day thanks to the policy and financial investments this nation has already committed to renewable energy,” said Dan Spatz, development director at Columbia Gorge Community College. “Rural America is poised to generate thousands more jobs – and leverage billions of dollars in private investment – if we only recommit ourselves as a nation to a clean energy future.”
The success and impact of the program at Columbia Gorge Community College have been widely recognized, especially by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) that rewarded the program with one of its first three Seals of Approval in January 2011. Other CGCC partners include Renewable Northwest Project, a non-profit advocacy organization working to promote the expansion of environmentally responsible renewable resources, such as wind, solar and geothermal in the Northwest.
“Through good policies and people who prioritize healthy communities, the Northwest has built a leading clean energy workforce, attracting billions of dollars of capital investment from renewable energy companies and thousands of related jobs,” said Rachel Shimshak, Executive Director at Renewable Northwest Project. “CGCC plays an integral role in that leadership, preparing today’s renewable energy workforce and tomorrow’s innovators for success in the clean energy economy.”
The companies, organizations and communities and their inspiring stories of energy efficiency are featured in videos produced by Climate Solutions, a Northwest-based clean energy economy nonprofit, who is spearheading the Solutions Stories project. The Solutions Stories project captures and communicates clean energy economy success stories happening now in the Northwest, including progress on clean energy and energy efficiency.
Additional information about this and others can be found at solutions-stories.org.
Climate Solutions is a Northwest-based clean energy economy nonprofit that works to accelerate practical and profitable solutions to global warming by galvanizing leadership, growing investment and bridging divides. Since 1998, Climate Solutions has pioneered the vision and cultivated political leadership in the Northwest for the proposition that clean energy and broadly-shared economic prosperity can go hand-in-hand. Through its Business Leaders, New Energy Cities and Harvesting Clean Energy programs, Climate Solutions builds a powerful constituency for local, regional and national action on climate and clean energy.
Focus the Nation is the country’s leading clean-energy youth empowerment organization and supports rising leaders in launching careers that accelerate the transition to clean energy in all fifty states. Since 2008, the organization has helped more than 300,000 young people engage in direct dialogue with business and elected leaders around energy solutions. Focus the Nation has been selected as one of four organizations to receive a donation from NW Natural. NW Natural customers can support Focus the Nation and the Columbia Gorge Community College project by voting between July 1 and August 31 at www.nwnatural.com/paperless.
The video was produced in partnership with Sustainable Media Group.