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2011 December 12 - 12:00 am

TRACKING TRENDS : Kan. College Says Energy Program Grads in Demand

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A renewable energy technology program started last year at Hutchinson Community College with federal stimulus money has filled up quickly with students, who are already in demand from employers.

Students with an understanding of renewable energy technology — geothermal, wind and solar — have “huge” opportunities for employment, said Jackie Long, co-chair of the computer and industrial technology department. Employers call at least once a month, and sometimes once a week, asking when students in the program will be available to hire, she said.

The college created the program last year after receiving $323,000 in federal stimulus money from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The program focuses on the mechanical, electrical and hydraulic components of energy-generating equipment, The Hutchinson News reported.

Currently, the renewable energy technology program is full with 15 students, Long said.

“`Companies are asking for workers with a good, solid, deep knowledge in those three areas, and they can train them on the areas more specific to their company,” Long said. “So we have been adamant that the program stay somewhat foundational so a graduate could go into any one of the renewable technology areas.”

The college, in partnership with the Hutchinson school district’s Career and Technical Education Academy has proposed using part of the federal money to install of a 90-foot, 5 kilowatt wind turbine. The project must be approved by the college’s board of trustees, the city and the school district.

If approved, it would be connected to a renewable energy technology lab at the academy and be used for education rather than to create electricity. It would complement smaller, desk-sized turbines students can work on in a lab environment. Long is hopeful the college will soon unveil plans for a solar energy component for the program as well.

“This is a great use of local resources,” she said. “We’re not duplicating anything and are trying to do something cutting edge that is visible and that we can be proud of.”

The renewable energy technology program eventually will be available both to Hutchinson-area high school juniors and seniors, who could receive college and high school credit and complete the program in a shorter than normal time.

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