The Day’s Theme: Partnering with Educators Today to Create the Energy Workforce of Tomorrow
FORT PIERCE—Representatives of energy companies from across Florida gathered at Indian River State College (IRSC) on Thursday, January 19, to discuss, among other things, ways the industry can partner with educators to empower students with ready skills for their workforce needs.
The meeting, held in the Brown Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, was the first of 2023 for the Florida Energy Workforce Consortium (FEWC), a group of energy and energy-related companies and educational institutions that have joined together to inform Floridians about stable, rewarding careers in the energy industry.
“Florida Energy Workforce Consortium was thrilled to be at IRSC where they have outstanding programs to support the energy sector,” said FEWC Chair Maureen Wilt. “We were happy to be hosted by the College and to spend the day here.
Consortium members were welcomed by IRSC President Dr. Timothy Moore, who explained the College’s mission. “We talk about three things—mission, students and community,” Moore said. “Our mission is to provide the highest quality education at the lowest price with the greatest number of attributes to change the lives of our students. And when we change the student, we change the community.”
About 77% of IRSC graduates stay in the College’s four-county service area, while 92% of graduates remain in the state, Moore said. “So every dollar spent (on students) is a dollar or more back in the community,” he said. “I’m not looking for a transaction; I want a partnership to change lives.” One of those partnerships, Moore said, turned a leadership gift of $10 million from a Palm Beach County businessman, and support by the IRSC Foundation, into the new workforce education Indiantown High School, run by IRSC in partnership with the Martin County School District. He said that a new building featuring state-of-the-art classrooms and labs is presently under construction and will open to ninth and tenth graders in August.
“We are here to transmit workforce back into the economy to build wealth, to change our society, to change who we are as Americans,” Moore said. “We’re going to partner with industries so they are sitting right on our campuses because that’s how we’re going to change the face of higher ed.”
Next, a group of home-schooled students demonstrated Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) projects they completed as members of FIRST, a global robotics community that prepares young people for future jobs in STEM industries. The students operated a robot built from Legos that they programmed to do specific tasks. For more information about FIRST visit http://www.firstinspires.org
After an FEWC business meeting, Bill Solomon, IRSC’s Dean of Workforce Education and Advanced Technical Division, took participants on a tour of two areas that are dedicated to workforce education. The first stop was the Flow Loop, a computer-controlled water flow system utilized in nuclear reactors that provides hands-on training for students in IRSC’s Electrical Power Technology Associate in Science Degree program and continuing education for technicians already working in the energy sector.
Next was a stop at the Alternative Energies Lab where two dozen or so students ages 9-12 from Fairlawn K-5 Elementary School participated in a STEM camp. Students built solar-powered cars and then teamed up to race them against each other outdoors.
“This is a great opportunity for our students to be exposed to the college,” said Anna Babcock, who teaches gifted and high achieving students at Fairlawn Elementary. “And to expose our kids to solar power and all the different energies. It’s good to be back on campus. And this is a great addition to our STEM program at Fairlawn.”
Fellow teacher Renee Hawkins agreed. “What an amazing opportunity for students to interact with the college,” she said. “We are super grateful that they included us.” Babcock and Hawkins are both finalists for Teacher of the Year in St. Lucie County.
After a lunch break and another business meeting, Scott Bishop, Manager of Emerging Technologies at Lakeland Electric, presented a talk about the changing needs of utilities companies and methods for reaching those who will one day represent a new generation of power industry workers.
Next up was a panel discussion hosted by Solomon; Susan Desjarlais, Project Manager – Development with NEXTera ENERGY, Florida Power & Light; Erin Cosentino, IRSC Workforce Education Program Coordinator; and Deborah Dorn, IRSC Workforce Education Laboratory Technician. The group took questions and discussed the three tracks of IRSC’s Electrical Power Technology Program—Instrumentation and Control and Electrical (ICE) specialization; Mechanical; and Radiation Protection.
The day ended with break-out sessions in which participants discussed how FEWC member organizations can build and sustain student engagement, with scholarships as a focus.
About Indian River State College
A leader in education and innovation, Indian River State College transforms lives by offering high-quality, affordable and accessible education to the residents of Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, and St. Lucie counties through traditional and online delivery. IRSC is recipient of the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges. The College serves nearly 22,000 students annually and offers more than 100 programs leading to Bachelor’s degrees, Associate degrees, technical certificates and applied technology diplomas. Learn more at https://www.irsc.edu/.
About the Florida Energy Workforce Consortium
The Florida Energy Workforce Consortium provides a forum for energy stakeholders to share best practices, discuss workforce trends and work together to support a sustainable, diverse and qualified workforce to meet the needs of the energy industry in Florida. The semi-annual membership meetings feature panel discussions, updates from the Center for Energy Workforce Development and the Department of Education, highlights of energy education programs throughout the state, and spotlights on partnerships between community organizations and energy industry partners.
Consortium corporate members include the Florida Natural Gas Association, Florida Municipal Electric Association, Duke Energy, Florida Power and Light, Florida Public Utilities, Lakeland Electric, Lake Apopka Natural Gas District, Tampa Electric Company, Florida Solar Energy Center, D.C. Jaeger, Pike Corporation, Local Union 234 Jacksonville, Bluegrass Education Technologies, SECO Energy, and Reedy Creek Improvement District.
In addition to Indian River State College, education members include Lake Sumter State College, Palm Beach State College and Fort Myers Technical College. For more information about the Consortium, email email@example.com.