Energy Optimizers USA
Expansion and Development of Career Technical Occupations
By Trent Hayden, Energy Engineer
As we hear in the media frequently, there is a national abundance of job openings in the rapidly growing industrial field but a shortage of qualified individuals to fill them. This is where career technical education is essential to help bridge the skill gap and encourage younger generations to study these fields. In order to reach and benefit the intended audience, educators must be equipped to offer the proper training and education to enable students to work after graduation, be adaptable to an evolving industry and technology, and know that they are the solution to the cultural and environmental issues we face every day.
Year after year, Energy Optimizers, USA (EOU) pushes the envelope of energy savings possibilities for school districts as it expands its repertoire of energy conservation measures and expertise. EOU associates join forces with a wide variety of education-based professions, including superintendents, teachers, maintenance staff, college professors, engineers, and graduates of career tech schools. As EOU has grown, we have sought to bring on more skilled trade workers to aid in developing facility improvements and energy savings projects, yet finding prospective workers has proved a daunting task with the competition for qualified tech graduates.
We understand and appreciate the value of career tech schools and have a great success story to share. Nick Alspaugh joined EOU in 2019 to assist our Project Development team, to perform energy auditing and to manage service agreements with our customers. Nick was home schooled and took a unique path to graduation. In his junior and senior years of high school, he did not need to take any gen-ed courses so attended both Upper Valley Career Center and Edison State Community College. Most of the credits earned at Upper Valley transferred to Edison, so Nick graduated from Upper Valley and Edison State Community College at the same time, at age 18. Further, Nick began working the summer before his senior high school year at an HVAC company and during his co-op rotation. By the time he graduated from Upper Valley/Edison State, he already had 1-1/2 years of experience in his chosen field. When he received a scholarship from Upper Valley, he used it to pay for an associate degree in HVAC from Sinclair Community College. Nick, now at only age 21, has a very bright future with Energy Optimizers, USA and credits his educational experiences at Upper Valley and two community colleges for giving him a great start in his career.
As technology has progressed, the renewable energy industry has become a catalyst to the growth of skilled trade jobs, with the most rapid job growth coming from the solar and wind sectors. EOU is seeing this clean energy workforce demand skyrocket firsthand thanks to decreasing technology costs, increasing demand for clean energy and efficient technology, and supportive policy and investments. New occupations related to renewable technologies are not limited to densely packed cities and remote areas away from home. Robert Kellow, of Aerotek staffing company, says he sees the renewable energy industry bringing jobs to small towns, as solar installation workers average a wage of $26 per hour according to the Solar Foundation jobs census. To fill these roles, our career technical centers must evolve and train students so they can thrive in this budding industry.
A notable example of career technical education investment comes from the Dayton area not too far from our headquarters. Miami Valley Career Technology Center is in the midst of a $150 million project to expand its programs and student capacity. While the Center currently serves 1,850 high school students and 4,000 adult learners, (with an additional 3,500 students through satellite schools in grades 6-12), it still has had to reject more than 200-300 students per term due to a lack of available seating. This expansion will allow for a larger student body and broaden the range of trades. Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted is quoted saying, “This is the future of how America’s education system is going to work, integrating employers and jobs skills in one location and launching students into the world ready to compete.” This type of investment into quality long-term education is what EOU looks for when recruiting for the future.
The expansion of our Energy Services industry has created significant opportunity for those with vocational aspirations and technical expertise. Creating enthusiasm and investing in trade skills career opportunities to end the skills gap deserves greater attention from district officials and community leaders everywhere. The effect will make for stronger economy, community, and employment.
The Energy Optimizers, USA team is proud to support the efforts of Career-Tech leaders in developing a strong workforce for today’s jobs. We have helped numerous Ohio career-tech centers to update their facilities, including LED lighting retrofits, and have encouraged faculty to allow students to learn from and participate in the project. It’s been a great partnership! If we haven’t yet provided your district with a complementary energy and lighting audit, give us a call to schedule our visit.