EPIC joins other state and national leaders to address workforce demand in clean energy

Categories: General News Tags: Departmental News

Clean energy is taking hold in North Carolina. A firm regional presence in the industry, and steady – if not exponential – growth promises an upward trajectory within our state’s economy.

The Challenge

As the industry races forward, so does the need for skilled workers. And right now, there aren’t enough qualified candidates – even in North Carolina, a state that is leading the charge for a clean energy economy. Qualified professionals are in short supply, a situation that will only intensify in the coming decade without concerted effort to capture the interest of young people – as well as that of current energy engineers – for the jobs a clean-energy environment requires.

The reality is, knowing how to train for these jobs – and industry specific needs – is tough. The traditional job training model puts the burden on the individual to navigate the complex structure of academia, required skills sets and job market..

-Mike Mazzola, Executive Director of EPIC

An EPIC Solution

UNC Charlotte’s Energy Production and Infrastructure Center, (“EPIC),” is a backbone leader in STEPS4GROWTH, a worker-centered training program that offers a pathway from K-12 to higher education to careers in the clean energy industry.

EPIC has received $800,000 of a four-year $23.7 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to participate in the leadership of this effort in North Carolina, alongside North Carolina A&T University, which is serving as the initiative’s lead. Experts from EPIC will lead the work related to the energy grid and storage sub-sector. In addition, EPIC’s expertise in clean energy and hands-on training and close ties to industry leaders will be integral to the initiative’s success – and the closing of employment gaps.

“This EDA investment will create a workforce training program for the clean energy sector, providing quality, demand-driven training for workers and a workforce to grow and expand the industry,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo, who attended the event where the grant was announced with North Carolina’s governor, Roy Cooper, earlier this month.

“What makes this particular initiative so exciting is that we already have commitment from a cadre of companies who have energy jobs ready for these workers. Rather than the open-ended approach of traditional job search models, this novel pipeline will actually direct the trained graduates to specific, open positions.”

-Mike Mazzola

In addition to the energy companies, related industries will also have more jobs. For example, as North Carolina expands further into wind, solar and hydropower energy alternatives, jobs will increase in the manufacturing and use of new equipment.

North Carolina is bountiful in clean energy resources as well as human resources. And UNC Charlotte is shaping the future of both.