“Canada has a really good outdoor classroom,” asserts Randolf Seibold, founder of the Clean Energy Classrooms online portal. Ontario, with its solar incentive programs is great place to learn about commercial, residential, and industrial scale solar projects.
Seibold came up with the idea for Clean Energy Classrooms with Peter Ronald of the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association when they noticed a growing a number of renewable energy training programs appearing in post-secondary schools in Canada. Launched in 2008 with funding from the B.C. Ministry of Energy, the website is a tool for prospective students who are interested in entering into a clean energy training program.
According to Seibold, there are currently more schools without clean energy programs than those that offer them. Schools that are showing leadership in this area tend to focus on certificate and diploma programs—the Universities of Calgary and Waterloo however, do offer a Master’s in sustainable energy and Carleton University will be launching their sustainable energy engineering and policy graduate program for the fall of 2010.
One innovative way that Canadian colleges are moving forward is through partnerships with organizations and governments. Across Canada, several have received Renewable Energy Training Centre or Bildungszentrum für Erneuerbare Energien (BZEE) certification for their respective wind turbine technician programs. These schools have imported the curriculum from Germany where the educators receive training.
Other schools like St. Lawrence College and the BC Institute of Technology (BCIT) are partnered with local organizations to teach their students about alternative energy. The Energy House in Kingston is a facility that offers students hands-on learning and is operated by St. Lawrence College and Switch, a network of Kingston-based businesses, researchers, public sector participants, and volunteers. On the west coast, BCIT is working with the City of Vancouver and the Rocky Mountain Insititue (RMI) to help launch a citywide infrastructure for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV). Their goal is to have 15 per cent of all new vehicles on the road electrified. It’s plain to see that many of these programs foresee a need for highly-skilled personnel in the energy sector.
The job market for renewable energy is still challenging, Seibold admits. Despite this, there are areas in Canada that have a demand for skilled clean energy workers. He attributes this growing demand to feed-in tariff programs for alternative energy. Ontario, B.C., and Nova Scotia have all established robust feed-in tariffs that have created environments for innovation and business growth. Encouragingly, Seibold has noticed that policies are being implemented province-by-province to ensure a strong future job market for clean energy.
Globally, addressing the energy needs of future generations is a major challenge and Canada has an opportunity to become a leader in this sector. Corporate Knights is doing its part by hosting roundtables across Canada to help shape future policies on sustainable energy. Meanwhile, Canada’s diverse geography provides students, researchers, and professionals with a “great living laboratory” to develop new technologies and infrastructure. For students especially, Canadian colleges offer a highly technical and experience-based education and Clean Energy Classrooms provides a comprehensive overview of the programs available.