Wind turbines dotting countrysides like salt rocks on an Indiana corn cob. Solar panels lining roofs like snickerdoodles on baking sheets. Biofuel
processing plants that would make Willie Wonka shriek with delight.
Amidst the green revolution, these are all sights that have either served as
food for thought or have come to fruition in the state.
But as these beacons of sustainability materialize, key questions remain:
Who will build them? And how will those people be trained?
Southwest Indiana, which contains the stateâ€™s third largest city (Evansville), finds itself in a
predicament not unlike many other regions of the country. An abundance of resources and
labor, but many workers with outdated skill sets more reminiscent of the industries that were
thriving in prior decades than today.
The Grow Southwest Indiana Regional Workforce Board enlisted the assistance of Texas-
based consultant Greyhill Advisors to examine the nine-country region as part of its new
initiative, Project GREEN. Funded by part of a $5 million Workforce Innovation in Regional
Economic Development (WIRED) grant, Greyhillâ€™s study showed a great deal of potential for the
region when it came to adapting to a new generation of manufacturing.
â€œWe wanted to understand each of the nine counties,â€ explains Ben Loftsgaarden, principal
at Greyhill Advisors. â€œThey realize they have a strong base in traditional energy and
Loftsgaarden explains energy in the region is already quite diverse, including coal, oil, gas,
biomass and even nuclear â€“ the Babcock & Wilcox Company in Mount Vernon is one of the
countryâ€™s leading nuclear power generators.
Christine Prior, planning manager for Grow Southwest Indiana Workforce, explains the key
to the area is training laborers â€“ as well as businesses â€“ to adapt.
â€œThere are companies that have made a certain type of product for years, but may want to
consider transitioning with training instead of closing their doors,â€ she offers.
Prior relays the story of one Jasper company that made furniture for years, but has branched
out into electronics. She contends that such a company could be well-suited
to work on electric cars in the future. She adds that while moving into
the green sector and improving efficiency are critical, the region will
need to find an optimal way to keep producing coal; the stateâ€™s primary
energy source will not be going away any time soon.
â€œIndiana is 96% coal,â€ Prior contends. â€œIf we turned off our coal generators, our state would cease to
exist. Coal is dirty, but poverty is a lot dirtier.â€
â€œWe find a lot of other regions have rushed into green technology, but donâ€™t know what it is or what
skills are required,â€ Loftsgaarden asserts. â€œBut you need to understand
energy and the different sectors; wind is much different than solar.â€
He adds that when considering what training is required,
itâ€™s best to reach out to manufacturers and human resources
managers and ask what specific positions need to be filled, and
which are most difficult to fill.
â€œThat helps when crafting curriculum,â€ he explains. â€œBreaking
it down into those bite-sized pieces makes it much easier.â€
Skills for today and tomorrow
As is often the case, education will prove critical in the
future of sustainability efforts. Purdue Universityâ€™s Technical
Assistance Program (TAP), which began in 1986, strives to be
out in front of the green wave, preparing the workforce for
Also funded by a WIRED grant, Purdueâ€™s efforts began by
actually determining what it meant to be green.
â€œThe (green) program was launched by a couple of professors
who looked at different types of training,â€ says Ethan Rogers,
manager of energy efficiency services for TAP. â€œThey started by
really defining green; before that, it was usually used with air
quotes around it.â€
Rogers notes that the training program coalesces with
manufacturers, so participants include workers and students,
as well as the Indiana Department of Environmental
Management and other government agencies.
â€œWe also consider all the industrial
agencies we engage to be partners,â€ he adds.
â€œWeâ€™ve worked with hundreds of companies in
the state as well as utility companies. Weâ€™ll do
workshops on site and have even done energy
audits for them.â€
Rogers relays that the training includes a
multitude of curricula, including enhancing
workersâ€™ knowledge of energy efficiency,
lighting systems, boilers, analyzing financial
returns, root cause analysis and soft skills.
When asked if there are other similar
programs in the country, Rogers contends,
â€œThere are some that are a little bit like it, but
ours is very comprehensive.â€
Purdueâ€™s TAP also offers Green Generalist
Training online via Oxygen Education, which
includes a library of content modules for
technical education and workforce
development. The online offering also includes
a case study simulation so students can analyze
Electric slide into the future
The Electrical Training Institute recently
launched the Indianapolis Electrical
Apprenticeship program to train Central
Indiana workers for the future, focusing on
installations of solar panels and wind turbines.
The first class, which graduated in March,
included 14 technicians and the ceremony was
attended by Rep. Andre Carson, among others.
Administered as a joint partnership between the National
Electrical Contractors Association of Central Indiana and the
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local #481,
the program strives to produce â€œgreen technicians.â€ And there
are plenty of opportunities. A press release for the program
explains Indiana has 1,200 clean energy companies, employing
more than 17,000 Hoosiers.
â€œWe think with the (American Recovery & Reinvestment
Act of 2009) money coming out, building automation will be
creating a lot of jobs,â€ offers Jim Patterson, director for the
Electrical Training Institute. â€œWe want journeymen and
apprentices to be involved in that.â€
As an example, Patterson relays that the Indianapolis City-
County Council has plans to â€œgreenâ€ its meeting facility, which
would include changing to a new type of lights in the building
â€“ the very type of project his graduates will be prepared for.
â€œOr if we have a windmill farm come into the area, we
want to be trained to do that,â€ he says. â€œAny upgrade in
training will help their employability.â€
He expects two or three more classes to graduate from the
program by the end of summer.
â€œIt will be ongoing,â€ Patterson says. â€œItâ€™s very popular with
our membership, and thereâ€™s quite a waiting list.â€
The Associated Builders & Contractors of Indiana (ABC) is also helping to train its members
in the ways of a greener world. After launching a Green Building Committee in 2008, the trade
association has added many eco-friendly training courses to its arsenal.
â€œWe started the committee shortly before (Gov. Mitch Danielsâ€™) executive order that all
public buildings be LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) silver certified,â€
explains Martha Pilkinton, vice president of business development. â€œNow, green buildings are a
phenomenon and, despite the recession, have been trucking along.â€
She adds that the trainings are a practical way to help ABC
members find work and to help the industry conduct itself in a
â€œEven if youâ€™re not a tree hugger, you should care about emissions
and electricity usage,â€ Pilkinton contends. â€œThereâ€™s a report out
(from the U.S. Green Building Council) that says buildings account
for 38% of all carbon dioxide emissions.â€
She adds that number is expected to grow by 1.8% a year over
the next 25 years.
Pilkinton notes that training seminar topics originally included:
separating fact from fiction on LEED certification, legal aspects of
LEED building and an accreditation exam.
â€œWe offered those things, but we werenâ€™t getting to the field
guys,â€ she clarifies, adding ABC now makes available a 15-hour
green worker program focused on the importance of recycling and
She explains over 500 trainees have been through ABCâ€™s programs
and the curriculum is still expanding. Pilkinton says topics now
include sustainability in carpentry; heating, ventilation and air
conditioning (HVAC); and electrical contracting.
â€œWeâ€™re also working with flooring contractors and painters,â€ she states. â€œThey both need to
be aware of the importance of low (volatile organic compounds).â€
Stimulus funds have helped spur the market, according to Pilkinton. She adds that ABC has
been aided in its efforts by Green Ideas â€“ an environmental building consultant in Arizona, the
U.S. Green Building Council Indiana chapter and local resources, companies and talent.
Above all, Pilkinton believes this holistic approach to green training will help those in the
field work better together.
â€œAll these different trades have to interact together on a job site,â€ she contends. â€œAnd we
even want to reach people who go prep the sites as well.â€
Training provides light for brighter future
vPrior concludes by stating that although recent struggles in the American â€“ and global â€“
economies have been detrimental to the business community, theyâ€™ve provided a valuable
opportunity for leaders in all sectors to address their business models.
â€œWeâ€™re going through tough times right now, but if weâ€™re going to emerge from this stronger
â€“to change what weâ€™ve done in the past â€“ training and education are really the only ways weâ€™re
going to do that,â€ she says.
Resources: Ben Loftsgaarden, Greyhill Advisors, at www.greyhill.com
Jim Patterson, Electrical Training Institute, at www.iejatc.com
Martha Pilkinton, Associated Builders & Contractors of Indiana, at www.abc-indy.org
Christine Prior, Grow Southwest Indiana Workforce, at www.indianaprojectgreen.org
Ethan Rogers, Purdue University, at www.tap.purdue.edu
BizVoice/Indiana Chamber - July/August 2010. Original text available at http://www.bizvoicemagazine.com/archives/10julaug/GreenTraining.pdf.