Westar Trade Resources Blog

Tuition-free renewable energy job training program debuts in AZ

Posted by Laina Rose

Central Arizona College’s renewable energy technology program hopes to put 400 people to work — 140 of them in one of the fastest growing industries in Arizona.

Solar InstallerCentral Arizona College has begun a tuition-free renewable energy program. Funded by a $2.2m US Department of Labor Community-Based Job Training Grant, the program will provide certification for biofuels technicians and a two-year associate of applied science degree in renewable energy technology, along with other certifications. Citing companies who are now hiring, including Abengoa Solana and Pinal, the program aims to assist veterans and the underprivileged who wish to begin their careers in the biofuels industry.

The program, funded by a $2.2 million U.S. Department of Labor Community-Based Job Training Grant, pays tuition for any U.S. citizen, age 18 or older, who requests it to take renewable energy technology courses to help find a job.

It targets veterans and unemployed and underemployed workers, but is open to anyone, said program manager Peter Combs.

“We have access to all kinds of resources,” he said. “The grant pays for adult basic education. It pays for work readiness — the soft skills that employers say they are looking for — so we teach that as well.”

The program relies on an advisory committee of 30 participants, including renewable energy industry experts and companies, city and state representatives.

“And we ask them,” Combs said, ‘How do you want these people trained?’ We’re training for the companies that are out there, for the demand that is out there and for the needs of the companies in our communities.”

The program will provide:

– Certification for photovoltaic (solar energy) technicians.

– Certification for biofuels technicians.

–  A two-year associate of applied science degree in renewable energy technology, which is transferable to a bachelor of applied science degree at any of the three state universities.

– General Educational Development for students who did not finish high school and want to earn a GED.

–  Workforce readiness training to prepare students for success in the work place with skills like showing up on time, dressing properly and projecting a positive attitude.

“There’s a lot of opportunity,” Combs said, “and it’s a vanishing opportunity in this political environment.

“The Department of Labor is making money available to remove any financial obstacles between a person and getting a job. And it doesn’t have to be a job in what we’re training for. If they find out they are suited for something else, that’s OK, too.”

Combs said the program has a budget for:

– 250 work readiness students;

– 125 students seeking certification as photovoltaic technicians;

– 120 students seeking certification as biofuels technicians; and

– 60 students seeking an associate degree in renewable energy technology.

“We have a lot of room,” Combs said.


To learn more about the program check out The Central Arizona College website.

Topics: Renewable Energy, Solar, Grants