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BCC Announces New Lab To Train Green-Energy Workers
By: Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
04:52PM / Monday, March 28, 2011
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BCC announced a new green-energy training facility to an audience featuring City Councilor Peter White, Rep. Paul Mark, Mike Supranowicz, of the chamber of commerce and Vice Chairman of the college's board of Trustees Ross Dindio.

Marie van Luling of the Northeast Utilities Foundation began her career at BCC and said the grant will help future students find exciting careers.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Community College will now train future green-energy worker with the help of the Northeast Utilities Foundation.

The college announced Monday that it will establish a Sustainable Energy Resource Training Center with a $201,067 grant from the foundation.

The grant pays for the equipment to go along with renovating the Ralph Hoffman Environmental Center and new curriculum that will train specialists in solar heating, wind and photovoltaic systems as well as energy auditors and technicians trained in weatherization.

"Because of this grant, BCC will have the flexibility to not only to increase our capacity to prepare current and future generation of workers for clean energy careers but also provide a modern laboratory for workforce training and certifications," Paul Raverta, college president, said. "I believe that every job today needs a little dose of green."

The 35-year-old building currently features a lecture room, laboratories, seminar area, student area and work areas and will be expanded by two classrooms, four laboratories and a greenhouse. The college had previously secured $750,000 in federal grant funding for renovations.

"When this grant came to this foundation, in which I sit as a board member, I was extremely excited to be part of the decision to bring the money here to BCC," said Marie van Luling, the vice president of corporate communications for Northeast Utilities Foundation and a BCC graduate.

"It [the college] began for me what has been an amazingly interesting career and to believe that it could begin here was something I wasn't sure could happen... This grant opens the doors for another whole cadre of students to find their way to success."

According to Western Massachusetts Electric Co.  President Peter Clarke, the training center will give local people the chance to find jobs in the area. The company, which is one of the major partners in the Northeast Utilities Foundation, will be increasing the demand for local green-energy jobs with recently announced projects, Clarke said.

"We recently completed construction of New England's largest solar facility over on Silver Lake Boulevard. The project encompasses about 65 6,500 solar photovoltaic panels covering more than eight acres and produced enough clean energy to power well over 300 300,000 homes. We recently announced plans for a second solar facility in the Springfield area," Clarke said. "The students you train in the facility will find jobs in the area, in the region."

College President Paul Raverta said renewable energy certifications will begin at the college as early as January.
The college will be offering photovoltaic certifications as soon as January.  The training will be coupled with other renovation projects the college will soon embark on that include renewable energy to create a "living laboratory", Raverta said.

State Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, helped announce the grant as chairman of the Legislature's telecommunications, utilities and energy committee.

"I grew up here at a time when we were told that the best days were behind us and the progress that came out of those best days came at a high environmental cost. We were told that we had gotten the jobs that we got but that we had to pollute the beautiful environment in this area that we love so much. We were told that we had to make a choice between jobs and the environment," Downing said.

"I think as we stand here today we say that we don't have to make that choice anymore."

The foundation has also agreed to match an additional $100,000 if the school can generate even more money for the project, Raverta said. The renovations will begin at the end of the spring semester.

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