College of the Canyons is one of five community colleges from across the nation partnering in a $7.5 million National Science Foundation grant that was awarded to Madison Area Technical College.
Over the next five years, the consortium of participating colleges will form the CREATE National Energy Center, which will provide resources to build a skilled technical workforce, improve gender equity in the energy field, expand partnerships between education and industry, and contribute to the transformation of global energy industries.
Funded through NSF’s Advanced Technological Education program, the CREATE National Energy Center will be the only one of its kind in the country.
“We are honored to be the only California community college that is taking part in this groundbreaking energy initiative,” COC Chancellor Dianne G. Van Hook said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to contributing to the CREATE National Energy Center’s mission of preparing students to enter the rapidly evolving global energy workforce.”
Other colleges participating in the NSF grant with Madison Area Technical College are Central Carolina Community College, Delaware Technical Community College and Indian River State College.
COC’s $1.7 million allocation of the award will go toward the development of new energy curriculum, faculty professional development activities, student outreach and dissemination of Energy Center resources to a nationwide audience.
“The CREATE National Energy Center is the result of years of hard work and dedication by the partner colleges focused on training qualified instructors, expanding educational opportunities for students, and driving innovation in the field of energy across the United States,” said Gabrielle Temple, CREATE project manager at the college.
Temple, who’s been with COC for about a dozen years, said NSF’s Advanced Technological Education program has a community college focus with a mission to provide innovative training for technicians in the science and technology fields, and put them in the work force.
“That’s something that you can get behind…education, training and putting people in good jobs,” Temple said.
Temple added she’s been working longer, for about 17 years, when it comes to securing and managing grants. Part of her work includes fostering a relationship with the NSF to ensure more opportunities for students and programs in the energy sector – and that’s the goal for the CREATE National Energy Center.
“The [CREATE] energy center supports all types, forms of energy. It is not one energy specific,” Temple said. “We have five schools across the county, and we will support any school developing an energy program.”
According to Temple, it’s important to invest in other energy sources for communities. The energy center will be looking to support solar, wind, HVAC, nuclear, biodiesel, and other sources, too.
COC has a sustainable architecture program, and that falls into the energy category, Temple added.
“Energy is evolving. Our energy needs are evolving and we need to have more resources available to us to meet those needs,” Temple said. “We, as a society, have to invest in our future and make it a priority.”
“I’m not saying it’s an all or nothing, but it’s a here and now to make it a priority to invest in a greener, cleaner energy future for our society, our communities and our climate.”
Funds from the NSF grant and a key goal of the energy center will be to recruit and provide development opportunities and serve as a venue for more than 900 national STEM educators to network in order to share energy technology innovations and address gaps in energy education.
“The energy industry is less than 30% women,” Temple said. “We definitely plan to work on recruiting more female participants and trying to recruit more of a diverse and equitable workforce.”
According to a report from the United States Energy and Employment Report, which describes overall trends in employment, workforce, demographics and other categories, in 2021 more than 7.8 million Americans worked in the energy sector.
From 2020 to 2021, total energy employment rose by 4%. According to the report, most sub technologies added jobs from 2020 through 2021, and wind energy was one of the few industries that did not lose jobs in 2020.
California gained more than 29,000 energy jobs, about 11,000 of which were in carbon-reducing motor vehicles, and almost 2,000 were in solar, according to the USSEER.
“The world is in the midst of a once in a century transformation of our energy infrastructure,” said CREATE Director and Madison College instructor Ken Walz. “Renewable energy is the fastest-growing energy source in the world and is projected to provide more than 90% of new electric power capacity through the next decade. This creates an enormous opportunity for students to secure well-paying, family-supporting jobs that cannot be exported, are not easily done by robots and benefit society at large.”
ATE supports partnerships between two-year institutions of higher education and other academic institutions to improve the education of technicians in science and engineering.