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Green Workforce Development for Youth Kicks Off

October 18, 2010 - 11:00am

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Every time Jonathan Norton walks into a room now and flips the switch, he can’t help but think about how the lights were wired. Or how the framing was installed. And if the insulation is efficient.

“A lot of people hear about green construction,” says Norton, a 21-year-old California Conservation Corps (CCC) member who’s in midst of energy efficiency training developed by Sierra College’s Center for Applied Competitive Technologies (CACT) in Rocklin, Calif. “But it’s never really explained.”

“[These courses] help us understand how you live; how you build things,” he adds. “I see the physics and mathematics behind it.”

Approximately 30 CCC members are undertaking the 128-hour training, called Technical Education in Energy Efficiency and Construction, or “TE3 C.”

The program is preparing young adults for entry-level positions in the energy efficiency industry.  Energy auditor, weatherization installer and green building technicians are a few of the job titles that could end up on the Corps members’ resumes.

The pilot program is a collaborative effort between CACT and CCC, a conservation corps program for 18 to 25 year olds that provides training and employment opportunities in the environmental fields across the state. About 50 students will graduate from TE3C by next spring.

It’s being funded with a $205,000 grant from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office Economic and Workforce Development Program.

“We work to strengthen and sustain the region’s future technical workforce,” says Carol Pepper-Kittredge, CACT director for Sierra College and grant project manager.  “There’s a growing interest in this field… and we are helping prepare people to enter in it.”

The program is a combination of lecture and hands-on training in green construction, introduction to electricity, energy efficiency in lighting applications, weatherization, energy efficiency and energy auditing.

Both Sierra College instructors and CCC supervisors are teaching the classes. And a “base camp” has been set up at CCC’s Placer Energy Center, where students construct, deconstruct, install and wire model structures.

CACT has also been working with manufacturing companies and other businesses in the region to train staff on how to implement “lean” practices, like identifying waste including energy use and streamlining processes to improve efficiency, for the last two decades.

The energy efficient program is another component to that, Pepper-Kittredge says.

“Companies are looking for ways to reduce costs,” she says. “This program is preparing future employees to help manufacturers and commercial businesses use less energy.”

When the college met with the Corps members, they all wanted to know one thing, Pepper-Kittredge says: “Will this prepare us for the workforce, because I want something that I can use to get a job?”

“I think this program is working towards the goal for achieving that,” she adds.

Norton, who has been working alongside the other members over the last couple months, can certainly attest to that.

“I believe that a good amount of learning is happening. People are asking lots of questions,” Norton says. “And that proves the point that people are getting interested.”

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