Greenfield Community College Part of $18M Grant Program to Drive Equitable Clean Energy Workforce Development

September 20, 2023

Greenfield Community College will be developing a new HVAC training program that's focused on improving equity in the green workforce thanks to a grant from the Healey-Driscoll administration.

GCC's Workforce Development division is developing the HVAC training program with funding from an $18 million grant designed to drive equitable clean energy workforce development. The awards are being provided by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), "a state agency dedicated to accelerating the growth of the clean energy sector to meet the Commonwealth's clean energy, climate, and economic development goals."

"We're thrilled to partner with MassCEC to bring this high-demand workforce training program to Greenfield. This grant award, rooted in equity, will allow GCC to train unemployed and underemployed individuals for a family-sustaining career in a growing industry. HVAC technicians will become increasingly more in-demand over the next few years to help meet the state's climate targets for 2030 and 2050," Kristin Cole, Vice President of Workforce Development at GCC, said.

GCC is receiving $1.1 million to develop and deliver a HVAC training program that includes paid on-the-job training with employers. Trainees will be provided technical skills and career readiness training, as well as professional certifications, comprehensive student support and a two-month paid internship.

This will provide career-ready individuals for an industry that will need to increase the number of professionals by 17 percent between now and 2030, according to the recently released Massachusetts clean energy workforce needs assessment.

"Clean Energy Jobs are good for the environment and good for family incomes. This is a win-win situation for GCC and our region," said GCC President Michelle Schutt.

GCC and their partners at MassHire Franklin Hampshire Career Center will specifically focus recruitment efforts on historically underrepresented individuals.

"Building and expanding our workforce is a foundational element of the clean energy transition," said MassCEC CEO Jennifer Daloisio in a statement. "The evolution of MassCEC's programming in workforce development shows our commitment to inclusive and intentional growth that delivers good-paying jobs to families and clean energy to residents across the Commonwealth. We are grateful for the Healey-Driscoll Administration's continued support, and we look forward to seeing these organizations carry out their promising work."

"This program will be a critical resource to prepare students for an excellent career path in the HVAC industry," said Sue Surner, CEO of Surner Heating Co. and GCC employer partner. "We are excited to not only support GCC's efforts to design a valuable training program with industry recognized credentials as outcomes but also to partner with GCC to provide paid internships to the participants coming out of this extensive training program. This grant will allow GCC to add 45 newly qualified individuals to our regional HVAC workforce pipeline and with the work ahead of us to move residents across the state off of fossil fuels and into cleaner energy, this couldn't come at a better time."

Program Origins

GCC began developing this program after GCC employer partner Sue Surner of Surner Heating Co. "rang the alarm about the workforce crisis employers are experiencing in the HVAC industry," Cole said.

"Sue shared with me just how difficult it was to hire enough experienced HVAC technicians to meet their customer needs, especially as demand continues to increase," Cole said. "I spoke with other employers throughout the region and the story was always the same."

Cole knew that GCC had the resources to help solve the issue by developing a training program for new professionals and finding grant funding, like the MassCEC grant. However, the design of the program was done by the professionals themselves, Cole said.

"We worked with Franklin County native and local HVAC professional Joel Tognarelli of Tognarelli HVAC Solutions to create the curriculum for the credentials most sought after by local employers. Having Joel's expertise both as a technician and as an employer was critical to our ability to build a program that we know will be exactly what local employers need," Cole said.

Along with providing funds for infrastructure and technical training, this grant will allow GCC to provide necessary wraparound support services to make sure the students enrolled in the program will have the support they need to be successful throughout.

"We can be intentionally inclusive in our recruitment efforts and help elevate our program participants' socioeconomic status. HVAC jobs are not only critical to the state's ability to reach aggressive climate goals for 2030 and 2050 but are also jobs that can provide family sustaining incomes to the residents of our community", Cole said.

GCC is one of 44 awardees for the MassCEC grant funding. Other recipients include Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Tufts University, National Society of Black Engineers and New England Women in Energy and the Environment.

You can learn more about the grant program here. Sign up for updates on GCC's fall 2024 training here.