clean energy curriculum

Want to make money? Enroll in Valley colleges' green training

"Out of work? Need money? Have I got a deal for you!"

That's how many of the pitches go. They arrive unbidden to cell phones and email addresses belonging to eager unemployed or underemployed people all over the country. Often the message is the best thing about the offer, which is usually some pyramid scheme or related dog of a deal.

There is something better. A whole lot better.

Clean and alternative energy may sound a little been there done that, but the sector is looking up. Way up. Projections show steady increases, and market indications point to substantial adoptions of policies in the private and public sectors that increase efficiencies, promote sustainability and bolster alternative energy projects.

Here's a sample of some entry-level wages:
  • Energy auditor - $42,000
  • HVAC installer - $41,600
  • Energy efficiency manager - $52,000
  • Retrofit specialist - $50,000
  • Construction project manager - $60,000
  • Building controls technician - $50,000

Employment isn't up to snuff yet, and companies focusing on energy efficiency, solar and other aspects of sustainability are just getting started here in the San Joaquin Valley. But soon companies will need trained workers who can immediately help them make money and expand their operations. This video by California Community Colleges Economic & Workforce Development gives an example of what  is out there.

The Central California Community Colleges Committed to Change, or C6, project has been established to meet the training needs of what is expected to be a robust sector in the San Joaquin Valley economy. It seeks to create accelerated educational training programs that produce qualified graduates for jobs in critical sectors that industry desperately wants to fill.

Members include Cerro Coso Community College, West Hills Community College District, Fresno City College, Madera Community College, Reedley College, Porterville Community College, Merced Community College, College of the Sequoias and Bakersfield Community College.

The colleges already have training programs in place that address much of the training needed. However, their intent is to make their programs better and increase job placement and retention of students.

Robert Pimentel, interim director of the C6 project, says the program has three components: agriculture, alternative energy and health care. He said the goal of the program is simple, create collaborative and common curriculum between member colleges and connect with industry so the programs propel graduates into the work force.

“We want to know where the jobs are,” he says. And “we want something meaningful for employers.”

C6 will attempt to align programs of participating colleges, mirror some of the curriculum with existing programs and compress training time lines. The goal is to cut the time it takes to get people through the programs while still providing them with accredited classes that can be used for further certifications and degrees.

Pimentel says while efforts have just begun to establish college-industry connections in alternative and clean energy, the C6 program has pulled off a successful effort with its health care component. “If it can be in health care, it can be done elsewhere,” he says.

Teachers: Please sample clean energy lesson plans

This past year, the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization worked on a project to prepare students for jobs in clean energy.

The jobs are coming, or at least that's what studies appear to show. And I've got my fingers crossed.

We worked with a number of groups on the Valley Legacy Grant project to develop a series of programs meant to steer the region's residents toward high-growth sectors of industry. Four teams established by the grant worked to bring those programs into high school, college and adult education classrooms across the Valley's eight counties.

The effort, supported by a grant from Workforce Investment Act, has been challenging but a success, providing a model that can be built and expanded upon in subsequent years.

Clean energy for educators

I'm writing this post in part to shine some attention on the website we created as part of this project,, and share it with teachers. My wife's an English teacher who tells me all the time how she appreciates good lesson plan ideas.

And that's what this has. Ideas. Lots of them. And they're all about clean energy, the environment, green work place trends and even climate change.

We at the SJVCEO, headed up the Green Economy & Workforce Team on this grant. The effort combined the talents of San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization, West Hills Community College District, the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium, The Maddy Institute and the International Center for Water Technology. SJVCEO served as team leader.

The clean energy industry promises to be one of the more robust growth engines of the next decade and could prove pivotal to California's San Joaquin Valley, and this project set groundwork between the business community and education.

Nurturing the next generation

The connections begun by the Valley Legacy Grant are expected to continue and could, with some nurturing, bear significant fruit in years to come. Not only can the region’s young people transition into jobs and positions of influence, but the Valley itself could emerge as a leader in research and green energy generation.

A recent study by the Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs Network says that in California, in addition to having the most green jobs in the country, those jobs, totaling 178,500 positions, are likely to more than double to 433,000 by 2040.

And a list we stumbled across lists more than 90 solar projects in our region that appear to have few regulatory hurdles ahead of them. They cover a projected 64,000 acres. Big stuff that undoubtedly leave a big economic footprint.

Our mission: Position the region to better take advantage of that trend by assisting educators to teach their students about it.

Clean energy outreach

Our team developed a list of classroom friendly experts specializing in clean energy, compiled a comprehensive list of private and higher education green energy-related training programs and collected thousands of pages of reports, studies and white papers. All of it is provided to students, teachers and job seekers electronically.

Our team also has collected a vast arsenal of green energy-related curriculum that can be used or sampled by teachers. This information can be found at www.wiasjvceo.

Staff of the SJVCEO continues to update the site with new reports and the latest cleantech information. We'd like to see it shared far and wide. One of my thoughts is that teachers who create clean energy related lesson plans can share them on the site. Others who modify them could likewise share their work.

Keeping it going

The idea is to continue and grow the website long after the sunset date of the grant and help students realize the extent of the opportunities in the clean energy sector. After all, one of them may provide the next big breakthrough that helps clean our air and provides cheap energy and economic development.

The model we created could be replicated in any region on any scale. The effort does require volunteer labor from those in industry and likely that of members. But with very little time, a web presence can be established and outreach made. The material collected on our site could be used and our formats copied.