Ohio is pioneering the development of "green collar" workers, a growing number of skilled professionals who use their talents to improve the emerging advanced energy industry. A recent report released by the American Solar Energy Society, funded by the Ohio Department of Development, predicted that 174,000 Ohioans could have jobs related to advanced, renewable energy by 2030.
According to the Ohio Business Development Coalition (OBDC), the nonprofit organization that markets the state for capital investment, Ohio's universities and colleges are gearing up to meet the need for skilled green collar workers through new programs, degrees and training specific to the advanced energy industry.
One example of an educational institution rising to the occasion is Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio. The college was recently awarded a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration to build an innovative learning facility. The Hocking College Energy Institute will feature modern learning labs for students studying in the college's energy programs.
"This state-of-the-art facility is truly a place where students will receive hands on training in advanced energy," said Jerry Hutton, dean of energy and transportation technologies for Hocking College. "Training skilled workers is critical to attracting renewable energy companies to Ohio and recharging the state's manufacturing base."
Ohio's direct market access to renewable energy consumers and state- sponsored programs are helping companies develop and launch the next generation of advanced energy technologies and compete even more effectively in a global economy. Through initiatives such as Ohio Governor Ted Strickland's Energy, Jobs and Progress plan, announced in 2007, Ohio is modernizing its energy infrastructure, ensuring affordable and stable energy prices and attracting renewable energy jobs of the future through an Advanced Energy Portfolio Standard. Ohio also is a driving force behind initiatives to increase the production of ethanol, biodiesel fuels and cellulosic ethanol, a fuel produced from farm waste and plants.
One of the most significant initiatives supporting Ohio's renewable energy industry and future job force is the state's Third Frontier Project, a 10- year, $1.6 billion initiative to help catalyze connections between companies and academia. The project is the state's largest-ever commitment to expand high-tech research capabilities, promote innovation, company formation and create high-paying jobs. Many of those jobs will be filled by Ohio's developing green collar workforce.
"Ohio is at the heart of next-generation, advanced energy industry success," said Ed Burghard, executive director of the Ohio Business Development Coalition. "In addition to the development of a highly skilled workforce to meet the ever-growing green collar industry demands, Ohio-based companies benefit from the state's continued effort to focus on creating a profit-friendly business environment through revamped tax and tort laws. Companies in Ohio also enjoy the bottom-line benefits that come from better employee work: life balance. Ohio offers low-cost, low stress communities and a unique tapestry of micropolitan and metropolitan cities. This diversity provides executives and employees the resources and time to make any ambition achievable. Ohio truly is the state of perfect balance."