New college program trains clean energy technicians

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Capital News Service
LANSING – Alpena Community College is developing a bachelor’s degree in electrical systems technology.
Jay Walterreit, director of public information and marketing at Alpena, said the community college is hoping to have the program running by August 2016.
The “rigorous” program’s curriculum is awaiting accreditation. Unlike the other energy technician programs available at Alpena, the program will qualify a student with a bachelor’s degree.
Walterreit said that there would not be much overlap between existing programs and the new program, except a few prerequisites.

In November, the curriculum for the electrical systems technology degree was reported to Alpena’s board of trustees, described as a program to “train individuals to install, modify, maintain, troubleshoot and perform functional tests on electrical grid systems equipment for employment in the fields of electric distribution, transmission and generation.”
With a curriculum nailed down, ACC is working to attain accreditation for the program.
“In short, the Michigan Legislature does not need to approve of or have any other relation to the bachelor’s degree being offered by Michigan community colleges,” Walterreit said.
In 2011, Alpena e received aTrade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The grant was intended to be used over three year s to expand existing clean and renewable energy certification programs. This includes certifications in areas such as marine technology, biofuels and energy conservation, green building technology, renewable energy and online concrete technology certificates.
Alpena’s related utility program has seen full enrollment with more than 80 students each semester since the course was offered for the past few years, Walterreit said.
“It’s a little unfair to compare the green energy program’s popularity to the utility program’s,” he said. “The green energy certification is new this fall.”
Meanwhile, Lansing Community College’s similar courses are what Sean Huberty, the lead faculty for the college’s alternative energy engineering technology program, would call complicated.
The program is “currently funded by the National Science Foundation on a project to standardize curriculum in energy management and provide a better pathway to careers,” Huberty said.
Within the past three years, changes have been made to the program, some resulting in lower enrollment, such as increased math requirements. The change in math requirements was meant to keep students competitive as they entered the job market, but many students were unable to pass.
The changes also included a name change to “energy management” which meant a loss in brand recognition, Huberty said.
“Academic advisors at the college thought the program had been cancelled and thus were not sending students my way,” he said.
The college and Huberty have not found a solution to the problem, but are looking for ways to get the word out about the program.

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