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UB, Alfred State lead effort to bolster clean energy workforce development

UB, Alfred State lead effort to bolster clean energy workforce development

The University at Buffalo is teaming with Alfred State College to support growth of the renewable energy sector by building collaborations and expanding educational opportunities.

The aim of the Western New York Clean Energy Workforce Development Program is to close critical workforce gaps by strengthening the connectivity between clean energy employers and educators in Erie, Niagara, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Allegany counties. It will result in new micro-credentials, certifications, continuing education assets and traditional degree offerings tailored to current and emerging industry needs.

Funding the two-year initiative is a $750,000 grant from New York State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Climate Jobs NY. It falls in line with the state’s comprehensive strategy — called Reforming the Energy Vision — to foster a clean, resilient and affordable energy system.

“This endeavor strongly aligns with UB’s pledge to create a more sustainable future for our campus, community and beyond,” says Liesl Folks, dean of the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). “As a public research institution, we have been active in the environmental movement since its birth 30 years ago. We are committed to becoming climate neutral by 2030. So it is only natural that we intensify our focus on equipping individuals with skills to operate and advance clean energy technologies.”

Ryan McPherson, UB’s chief sustainability officer, calls the program an “excellent complement to the university’s ongoing work to build a future fueled by clean energy.”

“From our dedicated faculty’s groundbreaking renewable energy research, to our engaged students proposing new and innovative sustainable paths forward, and our staff working to reduce our operational footprint every day,” McPherson says, “the university is taking critical steps to build our low-carbon economy.”

The UB Center for Industrial Effectiveness (TCIE), which is the business outreach arm for UB SEAS, is managing the program. TCIE is overseeing formulation of a five-year regional strategy that engages utilities and their vendors in workforce development. The forthcoming framework is poised to assure an ongoing conduit between clean energy sector requirements and the region’s training and education system.

Shaping the strategy is a study conducted by the UB Regional Institute to involve: labor market assessments; an advisory group of members representing clean energy employers, firms of various sizes and sectors, and government agencies; and researching curricular development best practices. The study will identify skills and credentials sought by clean energy employers.

Results of the workforce needs assessment will steer the enhancement of existing Alfred State curriculum and creation of new, innovative educational programs between the two participating institutions. The intention is to share programs among all State University of New York schools within the five Western New York counties.

“Alfred State College is thrilled to work with UB to meet the needs of the clean energy workforce,” says Kristin Poppo, Alfred State provost. “For years, we have emphasized sustainable practices in applied curricula in the trades and engineering technologies. Together with UB, we can meet all aspects of the emerging clean energy workforce with a pathway for learners, from applied associate degrees all the way up to PhDs in engineering.”

Other partners of the Western New York Clean Energy Workforce Development Program include Invest Buffalo Niagara, National Grid, National Fuel, NYSERDA and Tesla.

(Article written by Tracy Puckett, marketing communication associate at the University at Buffalo.)