At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much in common among aircraft mechanics, aspiring entrepreneurs and out-of-practice attorneys. But this summer, students from all these different backgrounds and more will meet on a mutual—and green—platform.
The Community College of Allegheny County, a Breathe Project coalition partner, recently kicked off its first semester of the Renewable/Alternative Energy Technologies Program. The tuition-free program offers a semester of training in renewable energies to 16 students seeking to develop their skill set to accommodate the many green job opportunities on the horizon in our region.
The class falls under the college’s Green Institute umbrella, an initiative to help jumpstart a workforce rooted in sustainability and renewable energies, program director Deb Killmeyer said. “It’s a great basis for really anyone who wants the entry-level introduction into the renewable energy arena.” Killmeyer explained.
Students will study a broad range of alternative energy possibilities, including: solar thermal heating systems; solar photovoltaic systems; wind turbine systems; grid-tie systems; pipes and pumping systems; and bio-fuel/hydrogen fuel cells.
Job training in the renewable energy sector is critical for air quality in southwestern Pennsylvania. Allegheny County’s cancer risk from air toxic releases is in the top one percent in the country. Coal-fired power plants and other factory industries in the area combine to produce dangerously high levels of fine particulate pollution, which can cause respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease and even premature death. That’s why a key first step in preventing the adverse health effects of conventional energy use is education in alternatives. The CCAC program also is another sign of how investment in clean air technologies is leading to the creation of new highly skilled, well-paying jobs in Pennsylvania.
Housed at the CCAC-West Hill Center in North Fayette, the 150-hour, 10-week Renewable/Alternative Energy Technologies curriculum will be taught two days a week. The cohort will be trained using technical simulators that provide realistic experience in installation and troubleshooting of renewable energy systems. Students also will participate in a series of Renewable/Alternative Energy in Action expeditions to locations throughout the region.
“We anticipate helping students to the best of their abilities to improve upon their skills in order to place them within the renewable energies field,” Killmeyer said. “Being that they’re coming from so many different walks of life, I think they’ll go out in 16 different directions.”
CCAC is hoping to incorporate green strategies into many disciplines it teaches, instilling environmental awareness as a fundamental business practice, Killmeyer said.
Indeed, every company and organization can and should have a green eye and do its part in helping to improve the air quality in southwestern Pennsylvania. Because all of us—lawyers, entrepreneurs and aircraft mechanics alike—breathe the same air.
– Brett Murphy, The Heinz Endowments Communications Intern