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COC scores $3 million grant from National Science Foundation

Posted: August 30, 2010 5:00 p.m.
Updated: August 30, 2010 5:00 p.m.
 

College of the Canyons has been awarded a four-year grant totaling $3 million from the National Science Foundation.

The grant establishes the California Regional Consortium for Engineering Advances in Technical Education Renewable Energy Regional Center, and will create and expand courses and workforce training programs to help address the high demand for renewable energy technicians throughout the state.

The bulk of the grant money will be used to create new curriculum, purchase supplies and equipment, hire new instructors and/or train current faculty, perform outreach in local junior high and high school classrooms and introduce renewable energy curriculum examples to local teachers.

Funding will also go toward developing renewable energy programs and workforce training at the consortium's partner colleges, which include Cuesta, Cerro Coso, Allen Hancock, Santa Barbara City, L.A. Pierce, Moorpark, Oxnard, Merced, and Porterville community colleges; California State Universities in Los Angeles, Fresno, and Channel Islands; and University of California, Davis.

"We are very enthusiastic about taking on this leadership role, as the grant will create unique opportunities for students throughout the state," COC Chancellor Dr. Dianne Van Hook said. "With the funding, we can move forward in equipping students with the skills and education needed to secure well-paying positions. That, of course, will lead to significant positive economic impacts in those communities where our partner institutions are located."

College of the Canyons developed the engineering advances consortium in 1996 as a way to develop a regional approach to workforce preparation and training and meet emerging industry needs related to advances in high demand engineering technology fields.

Colleges involved with the consortium serve as demonstration sites for regional technical workshops that pilot-test new curriculum, delivery systems and professional development programs in the area of technical teacher training.

Most recently the center fulfilled the objectives of a grant which provided funding for the development of a variety of both Information Technology and Manufacturing Technology-related courses and programs.

Funded by the foundation's Advanced Technological Education program -- designed to strengthen the preparation of technicians for the high performance workplace of advanced technicians -- the Renewable Energy Center at College of the Canyons is one of just 36 ATE centers of excellence in the nation.

"The NSF Advanced Technological Education program wants to fund innovative projects that meet emerging technical needs in a region." said Kathy Alfano, COC faculty member and director of the CREATE Center. "College of the Canyons has a proven track record of working with industry to help colleges in the region create the kind of technical curricula that will produce successful employees for emerging workforce needs.

"Our goal is to make sure the curricula of all our consortium colleges meet industry needs, and give our students the best preparation possible, so they are well qualified for the emerging renewable careers in our region," Alfano said.

Through the consortium, College of the Canyons can now begin a wide scale assessment of the renewable energy curricula available at partner colleges, in order to better align those courses, programs and training methods with both the current economic climate and the identified needs of industry partners and employers throughout the region.

"With that assessment the college will be able to play a larger role in determining what curriculum areas most need to be strengthened, and in what areas of the region new renewable energy programs would prove to be most beneficial," Alfano said. "The college does not want to get into a particular field, or develop a program in a geographic area, where there is no demand."

Another area the consortium will explore is training for the growth of non-technical positions associated with sales, clerical, leadership and other office jobs related to the renewable energy industry.

"An education in renewable energy can be beneficial on several levels," Alfano said. "The National Science Foundation's belief in our consortium will help not only our students, but also, more generally, the economic development of our communities."

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