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Renewable Energy Technician Education: Lessons from the German Energiewende

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

ECCD International Outreach

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1330.1 - 26.1330.32



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Paper Authors


Mary Slowinski, M.Ed. CREATE NSF-ATE Center

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Mary Slowinski received her M.Ed. in Learning Science from the University of Washington where she will complete her PhD in the same. She has worked extensively with the National Science Foundation's Advanced Technological Education program in a variety of consulting capacities including serving as learning coordinator for two international faculty learning projects, participating as an Innovation Coach for a "scaling-up innovations" project, developing curriculum and learning materials for projects and centers, leading national Teaching Skills Workshops, and facilitating groups in a variety of settings. Mary is currently Digital Media Arts program chair at Bellevue College.

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Kathleen Alfano College of the Canyons

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Kathleen Alfano has a Ph.D. from UCLA and has served as the Director of the California Consortium for Engineering Advances in Technological Education (CREATE) based at College of the Canyons since 1996. She directs and is Principal Investigator for the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) CREATE Renewable Energy Center of Excellence. As Director of CREATE, she is involved in efforts across the United States and internationally to define and implement credit technician curricula in many areas of renewable energy, including wind, solar, geothermal, and energy efficiency. In 2012 she served on the Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration working group that developed the Renewable Energy Competency Model ( Dr Alfano also served as the only community college representative on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Workforce Trends in the U.S. Energy and Mining Industries which released their report in March 2013

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Renewable Energy Technician Education: Lessons from the German EnergiewendePreparing technicians for the renewable energy sector is a multifaceted challenge for educators,especially those charged with workforce preparation at the nation’s two-year colleges. Rapidtechnological advances, shifting economic policies, environmental research results, and evenideological debates actively shape and influence the demands and expectations for this sector’sworkforce, all of which impacts the development and implementation of technician trainingprograms. The need for industry involvement and workplace-based learning also presentschallenges for workforce educators of any discipline. The question becomes not only what do wetrain these technicians to do but also how do we effectively do so?To better answer these questions, a team of renewable energy educators, funded by the NationalScience Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program, looked to other nations tolearn how they had met similar challenges. Representing a mix of disciplines, institutional rolesand experience levels, the group undertook two rigorous study tours to meet with technicaleducators, visit teaching labs, review industry partnerships, and talk with policy makers andgovernment representatives in Australia/New Zealand (2013) and Germany/Denmark (2014).Germany in particular presented an interesting case. The German Energiewende – or “energytransition” – is an on-going, nationally coordinated, comprehensive undertaking that has threefundamental drivers: the development and deployment of renewable energy sources, anincreased and widespread implementation of energy efficiency measures, and the creation of asmart, flexible grid, all of which is occurring in a relatively short timeframe. As would beexpected, these efforts have driven the education sector, and in particular those concerned withworkforce preparation, to develop strategic solutions for providing workers for this shiftingeconomy.This paper – and subsequent panel discussion - presents the team’s findings concerning theGerman response to renewable energy workforce education challenges. Participant data wascollected through the use of surveys, formative reflective reports, summative sector reports andindividual participant research methodologies. Results include key takeaways, notably theimportance of energy policy on training efficiencies and effectiveness, the necessity and natureof cultural shift, and new methods for integrating industry into training programs, as well as thetechnical specifics of the changes inherent in the Energiewende, The compiled participant dataalso provides overarching observations, recommended best practices, and educator insights intothe similarities and differences in – and influences on – renewable energy technician training inGermany and the U.S.

Slowinski, M.Ed., M., & Alfano, K. (2015, June), Renewable Energy Technician Education: Lessons from the German Energiewende Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24667

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