Training the workforce of the future requires a lot of foresight about which new technologies will succeed in the long run. Connecticut wants to make an investment in green jobs, according to a new report, and its technical high schools are writing a new curriculum to suit. WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports.
The ribbon is cut on Connecticut’s latest E-House. No-one will live in this highly energy efficient unit, but plenty of people will learn in it. It’s on the campus of Torrington’s Oliver Wolcott Technical High School, and it was built by current students.
“We pretty much started from all the way from in the beginning. All this rock you’re standing on, we placed all that in – that was basically the start.”
Nick Baldwin is a senior who specializes in plumbing, heating and cooling.
“Once the house got up we started putting in the storage tank, the boilers, put the panels on the roof, pipe everything behind the wall – we did a lot of work.”
His buddy Will Young says the technologies such as solar panels for hot water heating required them to relearn some of their skills.
“Well, it was very different from other projects we’ve done in the shop because there was many different fittings and different types of equipment that we’ve never hooked up before, that required a lot of different manuals and a lot of different studying up, and a lot more theory.”
But both are enthusiastic about the E-House concept – Baldwin says he’s already seen some of these technologies being applied in his part time work with a local heating contractor. It’s not just the students who had to learn new skills – so did their instructors. Pat Ciccone is the Superintendent of the state’s Technical High Schools.
“It required from grassroots, our instructors and consultants studying and learning summers and weekends to get themselves up to speed in the newest and latest technologies. And then sitting for many, many months rewriting our curriculum to bring this in.”
It costs about $35,000 to put up on of these training E-Houses. This is the second in the state – the first was at Goodwin Tech in New Britain. Eventually, the plan is to build one at each of the state’s technical high schools. The project is funded through the state’s two energy efficiency programs and private utility companies, all of whom contributed also to the training and new curriculum. State labor commissioner Sharon Palmer says it’s all about creating a workforce for the new green economy.
“Well, this is a prime example of alignment between the educational system, a jobs funnel and a pipeline to a job that’s waiting at the end of that pipeline.”
But is the green economy really ready for all of these new skilled workers? A new report prepared for the state estimates that only about 2,000 new jobs will be created in green occupations by 2018 – a 5% increase over recent employment in the sector. But Dan Esty says it’s the business of the state’s new comprehensive energy policy to promote the need for these skills.
“We are going to radically shift the commitment to clean energy into a much higher gear. And we will see an expansion of energy efficiency across all sectors – government, homes, not just houses, but apartments, condos, senior living centers, across all of our commercial and industrial buildings across the state. Likewise the infusion of new resources into renewable power is going to expand as well the number of solar arrays being deployed across the state, going from hundreds to thousands. Again this will translate into several thousand additional jobs beyond where the ‘business as usual’ trajectory might have taken us.”
The young people training in these new trades will hope that the projections of a vibrant future for the green economy can become a reality within the next few years.
For WNPR, I'm Harriet Jones.