One of the top 10 workforce development programs in the country is offered at Shoreline Community College.
Marketing hype? Nope, it’s a fact after the judges’ scores were tallied for the Bellwether Award at the 2009 Community College Futures Assembly. Shoreline’s Renewable Energy Training Program received the honor during the January conference in Orlando, Fla.
“Our program is truly on the cutting edge of the nation’s, really the global, move toward alternative energies and sustainability,” said Berta Lloyd, Dean of Workforce Education at Shoreline. “We’re focused on providing the education and training needed to move workers into this new and growing field. We were excited to be nominated and are very honored to receive this recognition.”
Shoreline’s program is aimed at “zero energy technology,” a term that refers to construction practices and energy use and production that can allow energy-neutral buildings and lifestyles. Classes revolve around the idea of “energy in the built environment,” how it is used, saved and generated.
Perhaps the most visible piece of the program is the Zero Energy House, a demonstration project that began at Washington State University and now sits on the SCC campus, serving as the program’s offices. The house was designed and built to use solar energy for electricity and hot water and showcase recycled and sustainable building materials.
The house also represents the connection between the two schools, along with program director Mike Nelson. Besides being affiliated with the two institutions, Nelson is also director of the Northwest Solar Center. Nelson is a tireless advocate to Washington lawmakers on behalf of solar-related energy projects and regulations. He also works with the solar-energy industry, bridging between policymakers, businessmen and higher education.
“This is the perfect situation to bring those all those pieces together,” Nelson said. “The time has come for alternative energies and solar is the one that has no limits.”
So far for the evolving and growing program, the educational centerpiece has been the “Photovoltaic Design and Installation” class.
Starting in spring, 2008, Nelson has been teaching about 50 students a quarter how to assess, design and install solar-electric energy systems for homes and commercial applications. Graduates of the class receive a state certification that qualifies them to begin their own business.
In the classroom, students learn how to determine a structure’s energy needs, the solar-electric opportunities of the site, design a system using off-the-shelf components and determine the installation method. In Washington state, a licensed electrician is required to do the actual installation, but students learn how to design how it would be installed.
To make sure students have hands-on experience with the tools, materials and their designs, the programs has a practice “roof” that is built to code but just a few feet off the ground.
“The classes are always filled,” Nelson said.
The spring 2009 graduates benefitted from fortuitous timing. Just weeks before they were finished, Gov. Chris Gregoire announced a new initiative calling for the creation of and training for 25,000 new green-industry jobs. Those first Shoreline-program graduates had the distinction of being the first in the state to fulfill Gregoire’s vision.
The Community College Futures Assembly serves as an annual independent policy think tank to identify critical issues facing community colleges and recognize trend-setting bellwether programs. Hundreds of schools from across the country compete for the prestigious Bellwether Award, the focal point of the conference. For the 2009 awards, schools competed in three categories, including workforce development, instructional programs and services and planning, governance and finance.
Presenting Shoreline’s program at the conference were Lloyd, Nelson and Susan Hoyne, Dean of Science at SCC.