GCC President and REE Professor to testify at Congressional Hearing June 24

June 23, 2014

On Wednesday, June 18, Congress called Greenfield Community College. Sarah Parker from Representative Peter DeFazio’s office contacted GCC, asking GCC to speak at a hearing on education and American energy jobs being held by the Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. DeFazio is the Ranking Member on the House Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over energy, federal lands, oceans and fisheries, and Native American issues. The subcommittee is particularly interested in education and energy jobs and they have heard about GCC’s programs in Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency. President Bob Pura and Associate Professor Teresa Jones will attend the American Energy Jobs: Opportunities for Education hearing in Washington, DC on Tuesday, June 24 and Jones will present GCC’s testimony. Jones is the Program Coordinator for GCC’s Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency program. Pura and Jones will also present a 12-page written report.

Commenting on the request, Pura said, “I am so very happy for the faculty, staff, and students of the RE/EE programs that they are being recognized for their good and hard work. The subcommittee is interested in hearing how to link education with the need for a solar energy workforce. Our local economy is strengthened by the green energy sector and both the community and the college value sustainable energy. One of the reasons GCC’s program in renewable energy and energy efficiency is so strong is that it reflects a deeply held value in the community. Our community really understands the importance of sustainable energy systems and how such systems impact the environment and our economic well-being. Testifying at this hearing is an opportunity to impact national policy. The subcommittee has asked exactly the right program to come to the table. It’s a wonderful statement about our college and community as a whole.”

“There is a great deal of opportunity for economic growth, job creation, and job attainment in the sustainable energy field,” said Jones. “There is a huge potential for domestic jobs in the area of energy efficiency upgrades, but people need knowledge and advanced skills to do those jobs. To participate in this rapidly evolving and technological field, people need to have a solid educational background, especially in science. This field is already very different from five years ago, so businesses and workers need to be able to adapt. The key piece for us is figuring out where the best job opportunities are and, what people need to know to succeed in getting those jobs or starting businesses. We look to our business and other community partners to help guide that process. A critical piece is for all interested people to be able to access the education and training they need. We have been able to make GCC’s RE/EE program accessible because of state funding. Our greatest success putting people to work was during a three-year workforce grant (2007-2010) that subsidized participant courses. These three years coincided with the economic downturn. People came to the program to retrain, upgrade their skills, and add skills so they could get or keep their jobs. The outcomes exceeded our expectations in new hires, promotions, wage increases, and broader business impacts. If we can do this during a recession, think of what we can do during brighter economic times.”

“I am extremely proud that GCC has been called on to testify before this subcommittee. Congress and the nation have a great deal to learn from them,” said U.S. Representative Jim McGovern. “Greenfield Community College’s curriculum is providing students with the skills necessary to support the development and deployment of renewable energy technology across the Commonwealth and the country.”

This is the second time in the past two months that GCC has been recognized by national leaders. On May 9, GCC was recognized for its programs in renewable energy by the White House’s Solar Progress Report: Advancing Toward a Clean Energy Future. The Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources learned about GCC’s Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency programs through other sources, not from the White House report. Pura said, “I am particularly pleased that both the White House and Congress have recognized the students, faculty and staff of this fine program.”

Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency (RE/EE) is a term used for a rapidly growing industry tackling the challenge of energy use and its impact in the built and living environment. Renewable Energy refers to energy sources that cannot be depleted such as solar energy to heat water and buildings, and solar, wind and hydropower to make electricity. Energy Efficiency means reducing energy use and minimizing energy waste – a first step in managing energy use wisely. It also encompasses all aspects of high performance buildings, including design, construction and management. GCC’s RE/EE program offers a wide range of courses that provide the knowledge and skills needed for entry level employment opportunities in the growing RE/EE field. The RE/EE program is designed to address the needs of a variety of people and the diversity of students taking the courses creates a dynamic learning environment offering many opportunities for networking. Those already employed in the trades can learn new skills, such as retrofitting for building contractors or photovoltaics for electricians. Other professionals can enhance existing careers by adding energy skills to their toolbox, or transition into new areas of work. Students planning to pursue a higher degree, such as architecture or landscape design, take these courses to prepare for transferring to a larger institution. Interested home or business owners can learn more about do-it-yourself opportunities.

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