State pumps $15M into SUNY’s clean-energy programs

Help wanted: As the need grows for qualified employees in the clean-energy industries, Albany and the SUNY system are answering the call.

The state university system’s clean-energy workforce-development efforts have received an eight-digit shot in the arm.

Gov. Cuomo: “Bold” statement.

A $15 million state investment will bolster SUNY’s clean-energy workforce and training programs, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, with $6 million heading to specific campus-based efforts – including several on Long Island – and an additional $9 million earmarked for colleges and universities planning apprenticeships and internships with industry partners.

The funding is part of the first phase of the Clean Climate Careers initiative, a $1.5 billion state effort targeting renewable energy projects and working toward the creation of 40,000 clean-energy jobs by 2020. Cuomo created the initiative in 2017 in response to President Donald Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement, an international global-warming accord targeting worldwide greenhouse gas reductions.

Long Island colleges enjoying a slice of the $6 million campus-based investment include Nassau Community College, which will add Energy Industry Fundamentals certificates to its curriculum, and Farmingdale State College, which will collaborate with local industrial partners to develop certificate and fast-track training programs within its Renewable Energy and Sustainability Center.

SUNY Maritime College, which is physically located in the Bronx and conducts training courses in the Long Island Sound, will fund two programs with its unannounced stipend: a certification program developed in partnership with the liquid natural gas industry and a series of new training efforts, including courses for off-shore vessel operators and a “wind operations technician” training program.

In announcing the $15 million investment in the state’s future clean-energy workforce, Cuomo reiterated New York’s commitment “to fighting climate change and protecting our environment,” even as the federal government “moves further away from responsible energy policy and clean-energy production.”

“We will continue to take bold action to promote clean energy across the state and support job growth in cutting-edge, renewable industries,” the governor added.

Other SUNY schools benefiting from the campus-based investments include Binghamton University, which will establish a Clean Energy Undergraduate Research Program; SUNY Oswego, which will enhance its energy laboratories to support the curricula of multiple departments; and the University at Buffalo, which will develop a Western New York Clean Energy Workforce Development program, including certification and micro-credentialing courses.

Kristina Johnson: Warning bell.

Meanwhile, as part of the $9 million request-for-proposal component for additional grants, the SUNY system will “explore opportunities for partnerships with state and local agencies,” according to the governor’s office, including the NYS Department of Labor, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the Empire State Development Corp.

While helping to prepare a new workforce for good-paying clean-energy jobs, the funding package “will help to promote environmental protection,” according to Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who said New York is tackling the issue of climate change head-on, “unlike the federal government.”

“The alarms have sounded again and again on the consequences of climate change, overdependence on fossil fuels and increased energy use and costs,” State University Chancellor Kristina Johnson added in a statement. “SUNY is proud to provide high-quality, hands-on and the most up-to-date clean-energy education and training to our students.”

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