Tech school students starting new Connecticut Clean Trades Program

By Mary deManbey

Students at Norwich Technical High School participate in group exercises at a recent kickoff event for the new Connecticut Clean Trades Program, a two-year, hands-on exploration of green careers.

Current and future career opportunities in the energy and sustainability "green jobs" market will require new certifications and experience in a wide variety of trades and engineering-related disciplines.

A new pilot program for students in five Connecticut technical high schools is sparking an early interest among young people to pursue those green careers.

Launched in late September, the Connecticut Clean Trades Program is immersing students in energy and sustainability projects called investigations into energy efficiency, water quality, environmental quality, waste and recycling, and school site environment.

Not only will these investigations give the students real-world experience in the fast-growing green industry, they'll help unlock energy-saving solutions to reduce the carbon footprints of their schools and communities along the way.

High schools participating in the pilot include Henry Abbott Tech in Danbury, E.C. Goodwin Tech in New Britain, Platt Tech in Milford, Ella T. Grasso Tech in Groton, and Norwich Tech.

Students involved are from the schools' trade areas for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), plumbing and heating, carpentry, electrical, bioscience environmental technology, and the academic science departments. They're using the innovative Project Learning Tree curriculum developed by the American Forest Foundation.

"The Project Learning Tree curriculum incorporates all the critical science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competencies," says Dr. Nivea L. Torres, acting superintendent, Connecticut Technical High Schools. "Not only will these investigations enhance our construction trades' experiential learning, but they will also be a great opportunity to build important business partnerships and better prepare our students for the real world of work."

Be a Business Partner

"Businesses need a highly skilled, highly trained workforce, and they need to feel confident that students are graduating with the relevant knowledge and skills and the ability to apply them," says Judy Resnick, executive director of CBIA's Education Foundation.

The program has started, but the door is still open to CBIA member companies in the commercial or residential energy industry who want to become program partners and help inspire a new generation of talent. As partners, businesses can provide company visits, classroom speakers, and job shadowing and internship experiences.

The Connecticut Clean Trades Program is not just an introductory course in energy and sustainability. Once students have finished their investigations, they'll have to present and "sell" their findings and recommendations to their school administrators at a summit at the end of the school year. (They'll actually get sales training, too.)

Year two of the program will find students participating in a service learning project in their communities, conducting further investigations, and developing action-plan recommendations.

But the best outcome of all will be if these students decide that clean trades are in their future, which will bode well for Connecticut's energy industry and economy.

CBIA is managing the Connecticut Clean Trades Program in partnership with CL&P and United Illuminating through Energize Connecticut, Connecticut's Technical High School System, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), and Project Learning Tree. The program is funded by a grant from CL&P and United Illuminating.For more information about the program and how to become a program partner, contact CBIA's Mary deManbey at 860.244.1975 or mary.demanbey@cbia.com. For updates on CBIA's education and workforce development programs, click here.