Transitions and Training for a New Workforce
Coal plants continue to close. How can utilities, workers and communities prepare for the transition? Coal industry jobs have shrunk 40% with a loss 50,000 jobs since 2011. Idaho intends to shutter one operating unit early with another scheduled for 2025. Vectren Corp. expects to close two coal plants by 2024. Dayton and Light Co. will close two massive plants by next year. In Arizona, negotiations continue to keep the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) in operation through the end of December, 2019. This plant played a vital role in powering the set of canals that deliver drinking water from the Colorado River to Phoenix and Tucson. Apex Clean Energy will construct a solar plant in the area but it will require less personnel.
Presidential plans are to keep plants open and jobs safe. However, market demands and technology continue to advance toward cleaner, greener and ultimately, cheaper energy. Many employees are left with few options: 1) Retirement, 2) Relocation or 3) Securing adequate funding for training in renewable energy. Option 3 leads many back to options 1 and 2, retirement or relocation.
According to Headwaters Economics, communities most impacted by plant closures are typically rural areas where language barriers, education and poverty are pronounced. What are some communities doing to maintain economic stability and keep coal workers from leaving?
Lena Fowler, Coconino County Supervisor, has a plan to do just that. The Higher Education Consortium Project is the collaborative effort of four colleges to deliver higher education instruction in a center near NGS. The Higher Education Consortium has yet to determine budget, specific areas of study and/or certifications but it is successfully moving forward and taking shape.
In your area, what programs are working for communities impacted economically by plant closures? Can utilities and private companies take full advantage of training their new workforce by partnering with educational outreach programs during development?
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