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Upton scores $150,000 for wind training

Published 9:03am Friday, August 14, 2009

BENTON HARBOR – While visiting the campus of Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor Thursday, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, announced he was successful in securing $150,000 for its energy production technology degree program.

The funding will allow LMC to expand the scope of its career training program from nuclear to also include wind energy and utility worker training.

Upton secured the funding in the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education spending bill, H.R. 3293, which recently passed the House.

The measure is expected to be considered by the Senate in September.

Upton, who strongly opposes a national energy tax, does believe that we must reduce carbon emissions of carbon and promote the development of clean energy – whether it be nuclear power, clean coal technologies and greater use of renewables like wind, solar and hydro.

“Southwest Michigan is at the forefront in the development of new sources of energy that will help chart our region and the nation on a course towards energy independence through nuclear, renewable sources of energy like wind and solar and clean coal technologies – and the expansion of these energies means more good-paying jobs for our community,” said Upton. “This funding will help Lake Michigan College provide the curriculum necessary to train local residents to fill the jobs that will be created as we expand our region’s energy portfolio. I commend Dr. Harrison and his colleagues at LMC for their leadership in creating the innovative Energy Production Technology degree program which will insure southwest Michigan’s place at the forefront in the development of diverse energies that will power our region for generations to come.
“As the nation’s need for energy increases, the demand is also on the rise for highly skilled workers who can help operate power generation plants safely and effectively, and maintain the systems that deliver energy to our homes and businesses. Lake Michigan College is taking the steps necessary to become a leading provider of regional energy industry training to help fulfill this need for skilled workers.”

“We are so appreciative of the support that Congressman Upton has given to us in obtaining this important grant,” stated LMC President Dr. Robert Harrison. “These programs are just two more examples of how training options at Lake Michigan College are evolving to meet the job demands of our corner of Michigan. This not only helps us prepare students for the jobs of today, but the careers of tomorrow.”

In the fall of 2008, LMC launched its Energy Production Technology degree program in partnership with the Cook Nuclear Plant in Bridgman and Palisades Power Plant in Covert.

In just 12 months, that program, which focuses on nuclear and non-nuclear plant operations and maintenance, has enrolled 190 students who are training for local job openings in the near future.

LMC’s next step in expanding energy training options for area residents comes due to the $150,000 Energy Production Program funding.

With the winter 2010 semester, LMC plans to expand its Energy Production Technology degree program with the launch of a Wind Energy concentration of study.

The Energy Production Program grant sponsored by Congressman Upton will provide $70,000 for classroom equipment including a wind turbine, tower, wiring, controllers, inverters and batteries.

The Wind Energy concentration will be able to accommodate 15 to 20 students each year.
Four new classes plus a field experience will be created.

These classes will be coupled with existing courses under the college’s Industrial Maintenance program.

Utility workers

It is expected that the nation will face a shortage of utility workers due to retirements and expected maintenance and expansion of the country’s electrical grid.

About half of the country’s 400,000 power industry workers are eligible to retire in the next five to 10 years.

To address the local need for utility workers, $80,000 of the $150,000 Energy Production Program grant will fund the purchase of needed equipment to launch a Utility Line Mechanic program.

A simulation lab will be developed at Lake Michigan College’s Bertrand Crossing Campus in Niles.

Training equipment will include transformers, breakers and sub-stations; single phase/three phase meters; and wire.

The new, non-credit Utility Line Mechanic program at LMC will deliver 900 hours of training to up to 15 students each year.

This is equivalent to the first year of the typical three-year apprenticeship program AEP and Consumers Energy use to train their new utility workers.

LMC is partnering with AEP and Consumers Energy to utilize the curriculum both companies use as part of the first year of their three-year apprenticeship program.
The screening of students for the program will begin in January.

The screening will include testing, interviews and physical tests and uses the screening requirements AEP and Consumers Energy follow for their utility apprenticeship applicants.
By aligning the program screening with utility screening methods, the likelihood of employment for students in the program increases.

In addition to jobs with power companies, other employment opportunities for graduates of this program include local municipalities who employ their own utility workers.

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