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Advancing Training Pathways for the Renewable Energy Workforce

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Two-Year College Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

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Paper Authors


Jill Davishahl Bellingham Technical College

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Jill Davishahl is a faculty member in the engineering department at Bellingham Technical College where she teaches courses ranging from Intro to Engineering Design to Engineering Statics. Outside of teaching, Jill is working on the development of a Bachelor of Applied Science in Engineering Technology (to be offered at BTC) and is currently PI on the NSF funded ATE project grant in renewable energy. She holds a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Washington.

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Joel N. Swisher Western Washington University

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Joel N. Swisher, PhD, PE, is Director of the Institute for Energy Studies and Research Professor of Environmental Science at Western Washington University. The Institute offers interdisciplinary education and training related to the science, technology, policy and business aspects of the conversion and use of energy resources. Previously, Dr. Swisher was Consulting Associate Professor at Stanford University and an independent consultant in clean energy technology and business strategy. He was formerly CTO at Camco International, and Managing Director of Research and Consulting at Rocky Mountain Institute, where he led research and consulting work for numerous electric utilities and producers of goods ranging from semiconductor chips to potato chips. He earned BS, MS and PhD degrees in the School of Engineering at Stanford and is a registered Professional Engineer.

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Renewable energy careers are emerging at an unprecedented pace and skill sets associated with energy technology cut across both traditional and emerging industries. Energy production, distribution, infrastructure support, and consumption are significant components of Northwest Washington’s economic and workforce development. Given these trends, Bellingham Technical College (BTC), Western Washington University (WWU), and the Pacific Northwest Center of Excellence for Clean Energy have developed career training pathways in renewable energy that advance the capabilities of students, increase employability of graduates, and provide industry with a highly skilled workforce. Through this project, BTC has developed a new Associate of Applied Science – Transfer (AAS-T) degree model with strong academic foundation that focuses on contextualized advanced math and sciences. This foundation of contextualized academics and advanced technology competencies and skills is coupled with specialized certificate options that focus on renewable energy. Contextualization of coursework allows faculty to easily modify curriculum to keep up with industry trends in the rapidly changing field of renewable energy technology. Faculty at BTC and WWU have collaborated to create undergraduate research opportunities focused on current trends in renewable energy. This model gives the technical student the opportunity to learn through academic research while providing traditional college student with valuable hands-on technical skills. Upon completion of both core and specialized coursework at BTC, students are prepared to enter the workforce as a skilled technician or can choose to directly articulate to the Institute of Energy Studies at Western Washington University. Having options to enter into the renewable energy industry at a variety of technical levels is powerful for students and is important to industry. Furthermore, since the AAS-T degree consists of a strong foundation of transferable academic coursework, students have the option to return to school after working in the field to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Energy Studies at WWU at junior level standing. The partners for this project each bring unique perspectives and strengths, making is a mutually beneficial collaboration. Bellingham Technical College provides expertise and facilities for effective and innovative technological education. Western Washington University participation fosters academic rigor and provides undergraduate research opportunities at the technician training level. Linking the two academic institutions with industry, the Pacific Northwest Center of Excellence for Clean Energy is a nationally recognized institution that provides strategic coordination for the energy industry’s skilled workforce. Together these three partners have worked closely with the renewable energy industry to ensure the program meets current industry demands. This poster will highlight the structure of the AAS-T degree in renewable energy and will provide the reader with the model for how to create similar degree pathways. It will also highlight technical undergraduate research opportunities, collaborative teaching and learning opportunities between the two institutions, effective contextualization of academic coursework, and strategies for how to keep coursework current with industry trends in renewable energy. Short Summary: Keeping pace with emerging technologies in renewable energy can be challenging for many academic institutions. This project involves finding ways to incorporate content related to renewable energy into current coursework through course contextualization and unique teaching and learning opportunities that allow faculty to adapt coursework to follow industry trends. Through the creation of multiple career training pathways in renewable energy, this project advances the capabilities of students and increases the employability of graduates by providing training in a variety of skill sets related to energy technology.

Davishahl, J., & Swisher, J. N. (2016, June), Advancing Training Pathways for the Renewable Energy Workforce Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26534

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