MSTC programs, local employers would benefit from grant funding

January 24, 2014

From “Federal legislation aimed at helping renewable energy industry” — GRAND RAPIDS — Building on a strong renewable energy base in central Wisconsin, a federal lawmaker has introduced a bill she says will help expand opportunities for students to learn more about the industry.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., visited Mid-State Technical College on Thursday to announce the legislation and meet with faculty and students to talk about the benefits of renewable energy jobs to state and national economies.

“It’s a very exciting opportunity to be at a campus which is really taking a leadership role on this issue already, because they’re very excited about the legislation but also have some really good wisdom in terms of having some of these programs under their belt,” Baldwin said.

The Grants for Renewable Energy Education for the Nation, or GREEN, Act would allocate competitive grant money for programs that prepare students for jobs or to attend post-secondary schools. Her office said clean-energy jobs pay about 13 percent better than the average job in the U.S., and the field is growing at nearly twice the rate of the national economy.

The grants also would allow technical colleges and high schools to install renewable energy projects for training purposes, Baldwin said.

In addition, the legislation promotes the renewable energy sector in the classroom in an attempt to get students more interested in the industry at an earlier age, Baldwin said. Mid-State’s renewable energy specialist program prepares students to design an integrated portfolio of renewable and traditional energy-producing systems and is the only program of its kind in the Wisconsin Technical College System.

A number of Wisconsin technical college leaders, including MSTC President Sue Budjac and Wisconsin Technical College System President Morna K. Foy, have expressed support for the bill. MSTC already partners with local employers, including those involved in the Workforce Central Peer Council and the Business Education Partnership Committee.

“We knew that we were kind of out ahead of the curve. We knew that the economy was growing around us, and we’ve begun producing technicians in the last few years that are meeting the needs locally and also on a regional and national basis,” said Ron Zillmer, associate dean of the college’s Technical & Industrial Division. “We’re happy about that, but this is the first real significant federal legislation that addresses that green-collar sector.

“I like the approach that Sen. Baldwin has taken with an educational focus,” Zillmer said. “So often, we try to pour support and funding to business and industry, and that’s fine, but in a situation like this where this is an emerging technology, there needs to be a balance.”

A bill similar to Baldwin’s was introduced in the House of Representatives in June and remains in committee, according to, which tracks federal legislation. The bill, by California Democrat Jerry McNerney, also would spend $100 million to develop career and technical education programs and facilities in the renewable energy field.

Baldwin also visited Milwaukee Area Technical College, Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay on Wednesday.


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