They have yet to graduate, but the first class of CCRI’s energy utility technology program is already making waves and, according to college president Ray Di Pasquale, is on their way to filling the jobs of the future.
The eight class members, all enrolled in a new program for an Energy Utility Technology Certificate, got lots of attention Thursday afternoon, more attention than other recent events at the college. The state’s entire congressional delegation and Governor Lincoln Chafee were there. Timothy Horan, president of National Grid Rhode Island and New Hampshire, was on hand to say a few words and announce $10,000 in scholarships for the students.
Why the fuss?
Funded with a $750,000 U.S. Department of Energy grant, the program is a good news story at a time when the local economy continues to sputter. Also, the program is a poster child of the college’s ability to partner with business in an effort to train a workforce for the jobs that are out there and other jobs that might be attracted to Rhode Island.
The grant, said Senator Jack Reed, was part of about $76 million in energy recovery funds that went to the state. Di Pasquale credited National Grid Vice President Michael Ryan with seeing that the college ended up with a piece of the pie.
There are no promises that, after completing the program, any of the students will have a job, least of all with National Grid. However, Horan said the company is always in need of good employees. National Grid has about 900 employees in New England and, with the regular turnover of employees, positions will open up, he said.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said the college is at a “sweet spot” in President Barack Obama’s mission to connect community colleges with the private sector and provide the training that makes possible that link to jobs.
“This is really about transforming people’s lives,” said Congressman David Cicilline. “It’s all focused on rebuilding our community and creating good-paying jobs.”
Congressman James Langevin said rebuilding the economy is going to take such public-private partnerships. Langevin said the partnership also enables the college to educate the next generation of workers at relatively low cost. The cost of the program per student per year is about $6,000.
Students not only take classes at the college engineering and technology lab but are also donning hardhats and reflective vests and other safety equipment to get hands-on experience in the field. They trained at one of National Grid’s substations in Warwick.
According to Di Pasquale, the program offers a core competency in areas such as technical math, electric circuits and controls and the computer applications that the industry requires.
An engineering and technology advisory committee, made up of representatives from area companies including National Grid, Astro-Med, Taco, Emerson Process Management, General Dynamics, Davol, Mahr Federal, Meller Optics, NUWC, Ploytop and Kent Hospital, help steer the curriculum.
The CCRI program is based on a program already developed by three community colleges in Massachusetts and National Grid. Those programs have had three years of full classes and high job placement.
National Grid donated $100,000 in in-kind contributions to support faculty, curriculum, marketing and student training, in addition to the $10,000 in scholarships, which it will fund annually. The course will be completed in May and student Bradford Allspach said, when he receives his certificate, he hopes to be considered for a linesman’s job at National Grid.