Sen. Tammy Baldwin tours Madison College touts GREEN Act

February 3, 2014

From dailyunion.com: “Sen. Tammy Baldwin tours MATC-Fort, touts GREEN Act” — By Ryan Whisner – U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin visited Madison Area Technical College campuses in both Fort Atkinson and Madison Friday to discuss her new legislation aimed at job training and workforce readiness for high-skilled jobs in clean energy.

The Grants for Renewable Energy Education for the Nation (GREEN) Act allocates competitive grant funding for clean energy career- and technical-training programs so that students are better trained for post-secondary education and better equipped for the high-skilled “green collar” jobs of the future.

“I’m excited about it because we know this is an area where there is job growth that is outperforming job growth throughout the United States,” Baldwin said.

She said more than 3 million Americans are employed in the growing green collar workforce, including in clean energy and sustainability. That is more than the number of people working in the fossil fuel industry, and twice as many as those employed in the biotech industry.

Additionally, Baldwin noted that the jobs created in the clean energy economy pay better than the average American job, with compensation rates 13-percent higher than the national average.

“What the GREEN act focuses on is partnerships between secondary schools and post-secondary schools to actually plant the seed of the potential of these careers earlier,” the senator said.

Both through her campaign for U.S. Senate and as a senator, Baldwin said, she has traveled the state visiting manufacturing and other sites where inspiring things are happening.

Specifically, she recalled visiting manufacturers of solar panels, wind turbines and other green energy sources.

“I talk at these sites about the employment future,” Baldwin said. “One of the things I hear frequently are that the local high school students are looking elsewhere and are not necessarily planning to have careers in the industries that have supported their communities for generations.”

The senator noted that a lot of people are saying that the conversation has to start earlier, even in middle school.

“We’re seeing some really promising outcomes when the conversation does start earlier,” she said, citing examples of schools that have added curriculum through which students can earn technical college or university credit and others that have started energy efficiency and renewable energy class work.

“Part of the bill I’ve introduced focuses on that type of continuing curriculum,” Baldwin said. “It would begin earlier and provide opportunities to expose people at a younger age to the advanced industry around them and the green energy job possibilities and really to establish partnerships between the high schools and technical colleges of our state.”

The bill also provides opportunities for technical schools or high schools to upgrade their own energy systems to serve as model training facilities.

Baldwin said the intention is for students to be able to be actively involved in the installation and maintenance and analysis of how effective the systems are as part of their green collar career tracks.

“It becomes a teaching and learning opportunity,” she said, noting that in some cases, the students write the grants. “We think it is an exciting way to get young people interested at an earlier age.”

Baldwin said her purpose in introducing the bill was to help address the ongoing economic issues.

“There is no greater challenge for our nation or for our state than to get our economy back to full strength,” the senator said. “We know the hits we’ve taken in recent years, whether it’s recession-based or because of other policies.”

She noted that manufacturing, in particular, has taken a huge hit.

“We’ve always made things in Wisconsin and we want to see a clear path back to the forefront, with an emphasis on clean, renewable energy,” Baldwin said. “You are in the front line and I’m really excited to hear more about what you are doing here.”

She noted that it was great to be at the Fort Atkinson campus of Madison College, where so much is happening in terms of preparing students for these types of such green-collar jobs.

“Sometimes I think we talk about this too narrowly,” she said.

During her visit at the Fort Atkinson campus, she spoke with instructors and students involved in renewable energy, transportation and manufacturing. Specific areas highlighted included hybrid vehicle automotive technical training, compressed natural gas technology and renewable energy (wind and solar energy).

Also, Jefferson City Administrator Tim Freitag and Mayor Dale Oppermann were on hand to discuss the recent installation of a solar farm by Half Moon Ventures of Chicago in the city’s North Business Park.

The senator also visited the campus’ state-of-the-art welding labs, where students are involved in learning greener manufacturing processes into the future.

“It is very exciting speaking to both the instructors and the students who are very optimistic about this future of this sector of economy,” Baldwin said after the campus tour.

The senator said she is proud of Wisconsin’s technical colleges for being the “unsung heroes” across the state.

“Madison College is no exception to that rule; in fact, it is a leader among them,” Baldwin said. “In our changing economy and as we have been struggling to recover from a deep recession, they have played such a critical role in helping returning students retool their skills for advanced manufacturing jobs in the future, but they also really are being focused on having the students career-ready on the day they graduate.”

She said it is filling an important need.

“There also are tremendous partnerships with the private sector making sure they are relevant to the needs of employers all around,” Baldwin said.

Following her stop in Fort Atkinson, the senator also visited the Commercial Avenue campus in Madison to tour the solar instructional labs and learn about the net-zero energy home project that the college and the City of Madison Community Development Authority have teamed up with to support the development of net-zero energy performing homes in the Allied Drive neighborhood of Madison.

Baldwin also has visited Milwaukee Area Technical College, Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay and Mid-State Technical College in Wisconsin Rapids to discuss the GREEN Act.

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