The Wind Turbine Drivetrain Testing Facility will help to establish long-term partnerships with industry for workforce development, research and education. South Carolina has the infrastructure to establish a wind-energy cluster across the state. And with new initiatives under way to create a trained workforce for the industry, the state can become a wind-energy hub for North America. Central to the industry’s growth, and the economy of the state, is a trained workforce of technicians and engineers to fill the jobs the industry will create.
“Clemson is focused on a new way of bringing education and economic development together as part of our mission. This effort is about bringing needed workforce development and education to the students and industries of the area. In Charleston, we are looking to center that effort around energy systems, and the project is a linchpin of our plan to build that programming.” - Jim Tuten, WTDTF Project Manager
Clemson has partnered with technical colleges across the state to develop certificate and other programs vital to workforce development. Funded by a National Science Foundation grant, Clemson has established the Center for Workforce Development to help provide a labor force with the specific skills manufacturers and suppliers need. The centers’ national and regional approaches provide practical solutions to issues that challenge educators and employers. Their programs ensure that students enter the workforce having completed degree or certificate programs that meet specific industry needs.
“Through the newly created Clemson University Center for Workforce Development, combined with state-of-the-art research campuses that include the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) and the Clemson University Restoration Institute in North Charleston, the university can help accelerate innovations to market and facilitate the exchange of knowledge.” – Dr. John Kelly, Clemson University VP for Economic Development
The energy industry appears poised for substantial job growth over the next 10 years, and part of an energy strategy announced by Clemson University will focus on preparing the needed work force. Between the development of emerging energy industries — such as wind, solar and biomass — and anticipated growth in traditional baseline utility industries, the demand for engineers and technical professionals is expected to rise dramatically and quickly, according to three recent studies.
The U.S. Department of Energy predicts tens of thousands of jobs could be created through development of an offshore wind-energy industry. A 2007 survey of U.S. electric utilities conducted by the Center for Energy Workforce Development estimated that nearly half of all engineering jobs could become vacant by 2012 due to retirements and attrition. While the economic downturn of 2008 may have delayed some retirements, it is generally considered a temporary reprieve.
“The role of the university is to help provide a talent pool to enable these emerging industries to be competitive in the marketplace. The companies will have jobs to fill, but they will require a trained workforce.” – Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, WTDTF Director of Business Development
Clemson University is pursuing initiatives to help fill the workforce demands of traditional and emerging energy clusters.
- Certifications: A series of online, energy-related certification courses will help place-bound technical and engineering professionals expand their energy-related knowledge or allow industries to enhance the skill set of their current employees. Certifications are available or are being developed in renewable energy, systems engineering, power systems and wind energy.
- Systems integration: Clemson plans to develop a power systems engineering certification program that draws from a wide spectrum of academic disciplines. The certification in power systems engineering could be the first step toward an energy systems degree program.
- A power systems engineering institute: A proposed power systems engineering institute in development could help meet the utility industry’s research and work force needs by developing new minors, degrees, certificates and training tailored to industry needs, serving as a one-stop shop for research activities of interest to power companies and as a liaison with wind, solar, and biomass research groups at Clemson.