A brand new community college certificate program in Green Building Technology opened this fall at Erie Community College, and demand was so high a second section was added. Among the students are displaced workers and laborers needing to learn about new technology.
"We just rolled out this program; the first group started this September," said Andrew Sako, professor and department chair of the Building Management program at ECC in Buffalo. Earlier this week he took NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi on a tour. They checked out a new lab that simulates operation of wind turbines, solar water heating systems and photovoltaic components. Training units simulate geothermal heating and cooling systems using the air beneath the earth.
Sako, who is president of the Faculty Federation of ECC and a NYSUT board member, said there is now a day and evening section for the one-year program that meets demand for workers who need to be skilled in green building design, construction, renovation and energy management.
"Many of the students are displaced workers. Some have construction or maintenance experience, and some have advanced degrees. They need to learn new skills," Sako said.
Iannuzzi said the program is another example of "why we should be expanding access to community colleges, not cutting funding. Community colleges play an instrumental role in advancing cutting-edge technology and retraining workers. They provide an affordable place for education."
Sako said students need a basic knowledge of electronics, such as residential wiring, college-level math and knowledge of sciences to get into the program. In six months, he said faculty and administrators will start the process to make it a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree program.
Students work with a company that deconstructs homes and reuses components "that would normally go into the landfill," Sako said. Framing lumber can be reused, as can brick and block that can be ground up and used for fill or other products.
"Our program is designed to evolve as needs and technology change," said Sako, adding that the college is seeking grants and funding for property on campus to build operational systems for trouble-shooting, monitoring and demonstrations.
"What I'm trying to get across to people is that community colleges are the backbone of our economy here in western New York and they're what's going to drive our economic recovery," he said. "It's really important to illustrate the kinds of things we're doing."