Columbia Gorge Community College is poised to take a dramatic new step in expanding and improving its renewable energy technology workforce training program.
As a longtime leader in RET training, CGCC has joined with the Oregon Military Department to build a combined Oregon National Guard Readiness Center and Workforce Training Center on the college’s campus in The Dalles.
Sherman County, which hosts an expanding wind turbine farm based economy, is investing in the partnership, and program, in a significant way. With its recent donation of $100,000 CGCC will be enabled to secure key components for the facility and its program equipment and curriculum.
“Sherman County’s contribution sends a powerful message, underscoring the importance of renewable energy in our region as a tool for rural economic recovery through family-wage employment,” said CGCC President Frank K. Toda.
“The goal of the grant is to help CGCC continue with improving the training of the RET program for the students in the hope that some of the Sherman County students will be able to remain in the area with a good paying job,”
said Sherman County Commissioner Chair Judge Gary Thompson.
According to Toda, the new facility, which started construction in June and is scheduled for completion by winter 2013, leverages $8 million, authorized through the Oregon Legislature, to construct a state-of-the-art-training center that will consolidate and augment CGCC’s RET program, while expanding physical capacity for changing workforce training needs.
“This project will also encourage civilian workforce reintegration of returning troops, many of whom have skills that can readily transfer into the fields of renewable energy and other advanced technologies,” Toda said. “While budget constraints have reduced the opportunity for many of our region’s high school students to learn many “career-tech” skills prior to graduation, it is our hope that this new facility will become a resource for our K-12 partners throughout the Mid-Columbia region.”
Sherman County, which benefits from significant ongoing wind industry revenues, has taken a leadership role in promoting renewable energy development throughout the region.
“Wind energy has figured greatly in the economy of Sherman County with the doubling of the property tax received and increased income received by the local property owners from lease revenues,” said Thompson.
“Wind is the only thing that is going to save rural Oregon, especially since all the timber is gone and the sawmills and all that are closing down,” said Thompson in a recent New York Times article. “I think what it is is a breath of fresh air.”
“The county’s advocacy and foresight have been critical factors in helping the industry expand, while also bringing significant benefits to Sherman County’s residents and taxpayers directly,” said Toda.
“They have been in the forefront of this effort, contributing significantly and at very critical times to the college foundation’s scholarship program for renewable energy students, and joining the college and other partners in our coordinated efforts to recruit new renewable energy employers to our region,” he added.
Specifically, the Sherman County donation will allow CGCC to continue fundamental skill training in welding, mechanics and hydraulics while augmenting more advanced skill development.
The funds will enable CGCC to:
n Install a state-of-the-art welding lab
n Install new electronics lab tables
n Upgrade the college’s new energy training program, which is part of the RET curriculum.
The curriculum changes would include enhancing training in advanced wind power generation concepts, hydropower, high-voltage direct current transmission, control module, direct current motor drives and alternating current regulation devices
The combined Readiness Center and Workforce Training Center has the future goal of becoming a “net zero” facility, the first of its kind in the United States. Achieving and maintaining the energy production and conservation systems required for this standard will create other training opportunities for students.