Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

Students Go Back to School, Prepare for Clean Energy Careers

September 21, 2016

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It’s exciting to see students across the country back in school. These young, fresh minds are eager to gain knowledge and skills that they can apply toward their future careers. As clean energy becomes a major sector in our nation’s energy economy, we hope this next generation of students will get excited about careers in clean energy to meet the challenges of the future.

According to a study published by Environmental Entrepreneurs earlier this year, 2.5 million Americans work in clean energy. Approximately 1.9 million of those people work in energy-efficiency and another 414,000 are employed in renewable energy fields like wind and solar power. Those numbers will continue to grow. We have a generational opportunity before us—the students in school now are the most technology-savvy group in history. Through education, we can enable them to innovate and advance revolutionary new technologies. The Energy Department’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) is investing in programs that ensure the future workforce can meet and exceed the needs of the booming clean energy sector.

One stellar example of AMO’s investment in students is the Industrial Assessment Centers (IAC) program. This program trains the energy engineers of tomorrow while simultaneously providing energy assessments to small- and medium-sized manufacturers that otherwise may not have energy management capabilities. Engineers with energy management training are in high demand in the manufacturing sector. The IAC assessments at manufacturing facilities provide hands-on learning and skill-development, which ultimately results in IAC alumni having a skill mix worth on average $6,210 more than their peers, according to an independent study by SRI International. The IAC program not only gives graduates a competitive edge in their job hunt, but also fulfills critical industry needs and enables the U.S. manufacturing sector to remain a world leader in clean energy technologies.

This fall also marks the launch of AMO’s brand new Power Electronics Traineeships at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Virginia Tech. These two-year masters and doctoral training programs will enable the design, manufacturing, and deployment of power electronics equipment—which control or convert electrical energy into usable power. Specifically, the program will focus on wide bandgap (WBG) power electronics, grid equipment, and high-efficiency electrical systems. Applications for these technologies include industrial motor systems, consumer electronics and data centers, and conversion of solar and wind energy. While these two schools have been selected to lead the Power Electronics Traineeship program, we look forward to continuing to build the learning community and ecosystem through wide dissemination of recruiting and teaching materials to institutions across the country. The curriculum developed through this program will prepare graduates for advanced manufacturing careers across industries including automotive, aerospace, chemical, and clean energy sectors.

Programs like these enable the United States to pass the baton to the next generation of clean energy engineers and scientists. They allow us to maximize talent and harness the tremendous potential of the future clean energy workforce. These educational opportunities set students up for success throughout their careers and help the U.S. remain a global leader in clean energy innovation. They are truly a win-win for all involved.

To learn more about the Advanced Manufacturing Office, click here