The North Carolina Clean Energy Youth Apprenticeship Program is training participants for careers in clean energy. The program was launched last year and saw participation double this summer. This program represents the first of its kind in the country and is part of a larger plan called Steps4Growth which works to expand a clean energy workforce across North Carolina in an attempt to lower carbon emissions in the state.
Government leaders hope they can expand the Steps4Growth program statewide with a $25 million federal grant that could soon be awarded to the organization. Currently, the two-month summer program offers two program modules solar energy and HVAC. The solar energy module is based at Halifax Community College and for the first few weeks, students take different classes, such as OSHA and the fundamentals of solar.
Additionally, Steps4Growth is designed to allow students flexibility. Students can continue their education, enter the workforce, or go work then come back for more education through easily transferrable credits.
"Young people are so passionate about creating a cleaner (future)," Sullivan said. "They're so passionate about... finding solutions to combat climate change and to make their communities more sustainable. This program allows them to get college credit, get industry (experience and) certifications, get paid, and be part of the solution."
Caroline Sullivan, Executive Director of the North Carolina Bussiness Committee for Education
Students in the HVAC module are placed throughout Wake, Mecklenburg, and Guilford counties. These students are in both high school and college. Participants within the HVAC program go through three days of virtual orientation and then get on-the-job training in the field. Since the pilot of the program around 20 different companies have partnered to offer apprenticeships to students.
If Steps4Growth is awarded the federal grant, organizers plan to build four regional tech centers throughout the state, along with two mobile units, that will also provide training. Once these classes are developed, the curriculum will quickly be rolled out to community colleges and universities across North Carolina. Courses will eventually be available online and in person for both high school and college students.