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Colleges Offering Renewable Energy Certifications Close Abruptly

ID 63917997 © Scott Griessel | Dreamstime.com

Recruiting for the renewable energy industry presents several challenges.  Retiring ‘Baby Boomers’ will leave a gap in a number of industries and not just at an executive level.  The demand for high expertise in technical fields and niche markets like cybersecurity and renewable energy may exceed the available talent pool.  It is encouraging that more people are pursing a career in the renewable energy industry.  For students nearing graduation, the possibilities are endless and the opportunities are mounting.  But for students attending the dozens of schools under the Education Corporation of America doors are closing, literally.  The for-profit company closed schools abruptly in December 2018.  ECA has closed more than 70 locations including Ecotech, Virginia College, Brightwood College, Brightwood Career Institue and Golf Academy.  Ecotech was located in Aurora, Colorado, the most diverse city in the state, and offered classes and 2-year degrees focused on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Students were completing courses and upon graduation, receiving the necessary certifications to gain employment.  Now they will be forced to transfer to a new school or attempt completing those certifications online.  ECA, backed by investors including private equity firm Willis Stein & Partners of Chicago, is the latest in a series of for-profit colleges to close after allegations that they were loading students up with debt while not providing them with marketable skills.  However, Ecotech was the exception to the rule.  The high demand for renewable energy workers guaranteed students immediate employment and in some cases starting $100,000 a year.  

How will these school closures impact the expertise of the up and coming workforce?  Will it limit the potential for diversity within the renewable energy workforce?

Soon, there may be a solution to the problem.  U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado wants the Department of Energy to study the demand for green jobs and create a pilot program to award grants to community colleges and small businesses so they can provide job training that would support the study's findings.  Delgado said people opposed to advancement in renewable energy often make it seem like workers in fossil fuel will be left behind. He said it is important to provide a clear path for those workers to pursue better-paying, longer-lasting, new green jobs. 

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