Two years ago, when John Means became Associate Chancellor for Workforce and Economic Development at Kern Community College District, only one of the district’s three colleges offered wind technician training.
Now, with careful data-driven planning and two recent grants totaling nearly $4 million, KCCD is poised to become one of the leading training providers for green jobs in California — and the United States.
“It was clear to us that there were going to be a large number of wind and solar technician jobs in our area and that we should gear up to be able to train for them,” Means says. “So that’s what we did. We started writing grants, and obviously we’ve been successful at getting the grants to implement those training programs at different sites in our district.”
In February, KCCD was awarded an ARRA-funded $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor after winning a $930,000 energy training grant from the California Employment Development Department and state Energy Commission late last year.
A significant part of the successful grant proposals was determining the need for alternative energy technicians in the region. Means and his colleagues substantiated demand by surveying industry partners and conducting labor market data analysis through EMSI.
Means used EMSI’s Analyst to look at the latest employment trends and short-term projections for the district’s 25,000-square mile region. He also analyzed the skills and competencies of the unemployed in the area and determined that laid-off construction workers had the foundational skills to become wind and solar technicians.
“It’s very important to run data analysis on the labor market,” Means says. “We don’t want to develop programs if the jobs aren’t there.”
Green training programs have become prevalent throughout California, and Means has found that most new providers have the same questions: “How do we know these jobs are going to be there, and what process do we go through?”
Means’ answer: “It isn’t any one piece of information. You really got to have different sources and be up to speed on where you’re getting your information. And your labor market information, it’s got to be accurate. You’ve got to know it’s the best in terms of estimating job growth over the next three or five years or 10 years.
“That’s why we ultimately felt with EMSI, not only was it important for us to have the best-possible forecast of labor market information — it was really helpful to then be able to pull that information that EMSI has in charts and graphs and submit it as part of our grant proposal. It was also critical to have the assistance of an EMSI representative and other staff who always make themselves available.”