By Lesia Winiarskyj

CBIA, in conjunction with three of the state's community colleges, recently offered five training sessions in solar photovoltaics (PV), one of the fastest-growing green industries.

"Concerns about the environment and effective use of resources have led to an explosion of sustainable processes, products, and services," says Judith K. Resnick, executive director of CBIA's Education Foundation. "To keep up with investments in renewable energy, Connecticut must have a workforce with the skills to compete and succeed."

Two 44-hour courses were offered: one in solar PV installation assisting and one in solar PV technical sales. Classes were held in September at Gateway, Middlesex, and Naugatuck Valley community colleges, and tuition was paid for by the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) federal grant, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. (Participants are TANF-eligible if they have dependent children and/or meet certain income and U.S. citizenship requirements.) Matching funds were provided by the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund.

Similar efforts are underway to prepare 12 TANF-eligible individuals for jobs in the traditional utility industry. Training is being provided by Connecticut Light & Power, Yankee Gas, Turner Training Group, and New England Tractor Trailer Training School, with participants learning not only about the electric utility and gas industries but also about alternative energy and the smart grid. Topics covered in the 12-week program include OSHA safety protocol; electricity; substation hazard awareness; math and blueprint reading; ergonomics; basic rigging, crane, backhoe, chain saw, line worker equipment, aerial lift, and forklift operation; fire extinguishing; and environmental cleanup. In addition, students are training to receive their commercial driver's license as well as take the Construction and Skilled Trades (CAST) test, the standard exam for jobs in the utilities.

"As more-experienced utility workers begin to retire," says Resnick, "attracting and training the next generation of workers is critical."

Participants were identified and recruited by Capital Workforce Partners/The Job Funnel (in Hartford) and Waterbury Opportunities Industrialization Center, Inc. Tuition has been paid for by TANF, with matching funds from Northeast Utilities, parent company of CL&P and Yankee Gas.

Lesia Winiarskyj is a writer/editor at CBIA. She can be reached at lesia.winiarskyj@cbia.com.