Saturday, December 5, 2009

Workers to receive green jobs training

The Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board has won a $98,364 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to focus on training opportunities for workers in the solar and weatherization fields.

The "green capacity building" grant aims to expand Milwaukee Builds, a program designed to train low-income and unemployed people.

The initiative of the Workforce Investment Board should be a stepladder to lift people out of poverty, said Don Sykes, chief executive of the workforce investment board.

"The model will put people back to work and provide the necessary basic skills as a first step in their career path," Sykes said.

A total of $5.8 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is being allocated to boost training capacity for 62 Labor Department grant recipients across the country, with a focus on underserved communities, the federal agency said.

Training is envisioned for solar installers and weatherization-related construction and contracting jobs designed to make homes more energy-efficient.

The grant is the latest of several green jobs initiatives that are being funded by the federal stimulus package in Wisconsin. They include:

• A $3.2 million grant to the Midwest Renewable Energy Association to train technical college instructors and others on solar panel installation - an initiative aimed at having those instructors train more solar installers as the demand for green energy sources grows.

• The Wind Energy Education Collaborative, a joint effort of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Milwaukee Area Technical College. The two schools were awarded $330,184 in May to help train workers for jobs in the wind-power industry. The project seeks to increase the number of people in southeastern Wisconsin able to find jobs in the growing wind industry and to serve as a training model for other colleges and universities, said David Yu, associate dean in UWM's College of Engineering & Applied Science.

Meanwhile, student interest in green fields is expanding, says the University of Wisconsin Extension.

Nearly twice as many students have enrolled in an online degree program in sustainable management as university officials expected, the University of Wisconsin-Extension said Thursday.

The sustainable management degree attracted 166 student enrollments, compared with projections that 90 would enroll.

Enrollment for spring offerings is projected to expand again, to 275.

"With green jobs a centerpiece of the economic recovery plan, we predicted there would be a high demand for the sustainable management degree," said UW-Extension Dean David Schejbal. "Wisconsin is the first major university system to offer undergraduate students this online option for a degree."

Statistics released by the university show 75% of the students hail from Wisconsin, but the online offering attracted students from eight other states as well as China and Germany.


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