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April 8, 2010 Volume 31, No. 26

Grant helps MU prepare displaced workers for new energy sector jobs

Integrated education

Project links Mizzou to agencies, community colleges

Workers in the transportation, manufacturing and construction sectors have been hit hard by the economic downturn. Recently the University of Missouri received nearly $4 million of a $6 million grant to the Missouri Division of Workforce that could help displaced workers learn skills needed for occupations in the energy sector.

The Missouri Energy Sector Partnership and Training Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor will help establish educational programs for energy occupations, including solar, wind and geothermal energy, and energy efficiency.

“More efficient use of existing energy resources, and the implementation of more sustainable energy technologies are good for the country and the economy as we move forward,” says William Miller, project leader and professor of nuclear engineering at MU

 “One of the goals of this program is to create an integrated system of education, training and supportive services leading to employment supporting Missouri’s emerging energy technology needs. This is the focus of our work under the new grant.”

As part of the three-year grant, MU is collaborating with state agencies such as the Missouri Division of Workforce Development, the Missouri Energy Workforce Consortium, and a network of community colleges including Linn State Technical College, Crowder College, Metropolitan College, St. Charles Community College and St. Louis Community College. The MU team will evaluate industry skills that are required to install, operate and maintain “green” energy technologies.

Based on these findings, MU and the two-year partner schools will modify and create curricula needed for sustainable energy and energy efficiency education and training programs.

“The team will review the curriculum currently used to prepare individuals for renewable energy and energy efficiency occupations. Once we know what exists and what new knowledge is required for the sustainable energy and energy efficiency occupations, we can create a streamlined path for students,” says Gayla Neumeyer, who works with the MU Research Reactor Center’s education group.

This initiative will help students develop skills and acquire knowledge for specific sustainable energy fields to help them reach career goals. The curriculum can be used by other schools across the country that want to create similar programs.

The new national Department of Labor initiative is part of $190 million that has been distributed through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to give workers the skills required in emerging energy efficiency and renewable energy industries.

Initially, the Missouri grant will affect about 480 Missouri workers and lead to development of new programs affecting additional workers, including veterans and active duty military personnel, incumbent workers and unemployed workers.