Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Rowan University to develop Green Jobs Academy

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With support from a $1 million TD Ready Challenge grant from TD Bank Group, Rowan University and its partners are establishing a new Green Jobs Academy to prepare workers with required industry credentials for jobs in offshore wind and solar power. 

The TD Ready Challenge grant program is an annual, competitive, North American initiative that seeks to support nonprofit and charitable organizations developing innovative, impactful and measurable solutions for a changing world. Rowan is among this year’s 10 grant recipients with community-based projects designed to address the challenges of climate change and the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Green jobs are the fastest-growing segment of New Jersey’s economy, with 7,000 new jobs in offshore wind and 6,000 jobs in solar energy expected in southern New Jersey over the next 10 years. The median pay for wind turbine technicians is $56,230 a year; solar photovoltaic installers earn on average $46,470 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

With the development of the Paulsboro Marine Terminal and the New Jersey Wind Port, the renewable energy sector in South Jersey will require local skilled labor for construction and maintenance of wind turbines and monopiles, installation and maintenance of photovoltaic systems, and management, environmental, engineering and operation of wind and solar energy businesses. 

By working closely with industry, Rowan College of South Jersey, southern New Jersey workforce development boards and other training partners, Rowan University is developing a flexible, stackable-credit education model to educate and build the workforce for this fast-developing field. 

Led by Rowan’s School of Earth & Environment, the Green Jobs Academy will recruit students for hands-on experiential programs that lead to essential workforce certifications and credentials, and that provide a pathway to associate’s, bachelor’s and graduate-level degrees, as well as research and development opportunities. The academy will especially benefit students from South Jersey communities most affected by the closures over the last 20 years of seven refineries along the Delaware River.

“TD Bank is leading the way on sustainability, economic development and corporate social responsibility. We’re so happy we could partner with them to develop educational programs that will benefit South Jersey now and far into the future,” said Rowan University President Ali A. Houshmand.

The Green Jobs Academy builds on Rowan’s ability to work closely with local institutions and industries to align academic programs with the needs of employers. In 2022, the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering received a $500,000 federal grant to develop specialized wind energy certificates for students enrolled in “2+2” engineering technology degree programs offered in partnership with Rowan College of South Jersey. 

The academy is a natural fit for Rowan’s School of Earth & Environment, which is “100 percent focused” on addressing the climate and biodiversity crises, said Dean Kenneth Lacovara. The school is leading a university-wide initiative to hire sustainability catalysts, key faculty who will help transform education and champion sustainability in every Rowan college and school.  

“We intend to provide rapid, affordable micro-credentials to people who would like to transition into the green economy,” Lacovara said. “These are all bite-sized programs that fit into the real-life schedules of students and according to their needs. We’ll give people a leg up and, at the same time, accelerate the transformation of our economy’s energy sector into something that’s greener, more sustainable and regenerative.”

Rowan is also developing partnerships with local wind and solar energy employers to ensure academic programs lead to local, meaningful careers, Lacovara said. Eventually, the academy will expand into other green industry sectors, according to market demand.   

“We are always going to listen to the market, because the whole point is for these students to get jobs,” Lacovara said. 

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