Adobe Stock / Mike Mareen
Want to acquire the skillset you’ll need for a career in clean energy and sustainability? These classes and programs in Westchester can help.
Careers in clean energy are on the rise as sustainability becomes a greater priority in all sectors. And, luckily for locals, anyone interested in learning specialized skills through a vocational school or technical training program can look at the courses offered at education hubs like Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES and Willdan Clean Energy Academy.
“The catalyst for the Willdan Clean Energy Academy program came from previous job training programs and a need from the different contractors we partner with,” says Dwayne R. Norris, the Director of Outreach and Recruitment at the Willdan Clean Energy Academy. “The goal of our program is to provide people with the skills so they won’t need as much on-the-job training.”
With an increase in the use of solar and wind power, jobs in clean energy such as wind turbine technicians are expected to grow 60.7 percent from 2019 to 2029, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, wind turbine technicians and other jobs in the field, such as solar panel installers, make anywhere from $44,000 to $52,000 a year, which is above the median annual average of all occupations.
“There is so much opportunity in this space, and we want to make sure the industry can meet the demands,” Norris adds. “We also want to make sure the industry stays diverse by providing training to disadvantaged communities who often feel the brunt of environmental impacts.”
The Willdan Energy Academy provides free technical training programs for people interested in gaining skills and knowledge in clean energy and sustainability. As of September 2022, the academy has trained over 449 clean energy workers since its inception in 2020. In addition, the academy has created jobs for 158 graduates, equivalent to a 76 percent job placement success rate.
“There are a lot of transferable skills in clean energy,” says Norris. “When students come to us, we try to understand their interests in the industry to see if they have a genuine passion for clean energy. We want someone who is looking at this as a career pathway and has a sense of what they want to do after participating in our program.”
The main courses offered through the program are an electrical course and a thermal course. The electrical course includes training in areas such as lighting systems, HVAC-R systems, and green economy. The thermal course includes specific classes on green economy, building envelope, and heating systems. Additionally, the academy will soon provide training programs on electric installations and electric vehicles for incumbent workers.
Students enrolled in training programs at The Willdan Energy Academy who attend all classes, submit the audit report project, and pass the final exam will receive a certificate of completion. The electrical and thermal courses are designed for individuals who want jobs in energy auditing or program management roles in small energy efficiency programs.
Both the thermal and electrical course training consists of 20 class sessions, for a total of 60 hours of classroom instruction. The courses help participants learn real-world applications of the sustainability process and also serve to build their portfolios and assist them with internships and job placement.
Beyond the Basics of Clean Energy
Careers in clean energy aren’t limited to solar, wind, and thermal industries. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, many of the skilled workers who get involved in manufacturing electric vehicles can expect to make $30,000 to $90,000 depending on their specialty. Possible careers in the industry include electrical equipment assemblers, computer-controlled machine tool operators, machinists, and more.
“People enjoy seeing a direct impact in the work they are doing.”
High school students interested in transportation careers have the opportunity to take an electric vehicle technician course at Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES. In order to enter the course, students must apply through the Tech Center Application and be accepted into the program.
In the course, students will get a hands-on look into everything that makes an electric vehicle operate. Students will learn about electric vehicle types, components, and driving ranges. They will also learn about regenerative braking, drivetrain modes, electric vehicle supply equipment, and electric vehicle energy consumption and reporting.
Whether students or adults are interested in clean energy, Westchester offers affordable options to learn new skills. With a variety of accessible programs, people can learn about themselves, their skillsets, and their passion for the environment.
“People enjoy seeing a direct impact in the work they are doing,” says Norris. “I think most of our students find the greatest reward in knowing that their contributions are helping our planet and humanity as a whole because there is so much that needs to get done.”