Students and faculty are energized at the College of Southern Maryland as the school rolls out a new center for technology and engineering education just in time for the college’s 50th anniversary.
The center, funded with a $1 million federal grant, will put CSM at the forefront of the area’s burgeoning energy industry, both as a provider of skilled labor and as a site for ongoing employee training and development, says Dr. Brad Gottfried, president.
“Energy is such a dominant field here, and there is a need for skilled employees,” Gottfried says. “Certainly there is a need for individuals who are working the controls, but also for plumbers, welders, carpenters, etc. Companies are having real problems filling these types of positions, and that was the impetus for us to apply for the federal grant.”
Area Energy Companies
The area’s energy companies are indeed a diverse lot: Constellation Energy, which is planning to add a third reactor to its Calvert Cliffs nuclear facility; the coal-powered Mirant generating plant in Morgantown; Competitive Power Ventures, which hopes to build a natural gas-fired electrical plant in the Waldorf area; and the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative, or SMECO.
CSM was able to make its case for the grant in a crowded field – around 170 applicants went after the federal funds, which are distributed through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. Known as the High Growth Job Training Initiative, only 11 grants were awarded; of those, CSM’s is the only one on the East Coast. The combination of the diverse energy industry in the area, coupled with the college’s ability to train students in several fields, was key to the success, Gottfried says.
“What this is going to allow us to do is get into an area that we have not concentrated on, which is these trades as they will apply to working in the energy industry,” Gottfried says. “What we’re going to do is have these short-term, six-week boot camps. They’ll be very intensive, and they’re going to get people ready to go through the doors and fill some of these positions. In some cases, they may finish here and go into apprenticeship programs, working with some of the unions. We also will be working with the school districts, so that students who are in some of the trade programs can go right into these programs as well. We’re hoping to have a lot of varied entry points.”
The center’s courses came online during fall 2008, and the physical plant itself will be a leased-space, satellite campus of sorts in the midst of the college’s three-county service area. If all goes as planned, a permanent facility will likely be constructed within a few years.
“We’re going to be working closely with the power companies and SMECO, and trying to tie our programs into their specific needs as much as possible,” Gottfried says. “This really is what community colleges are all about. We’re all things to all people, and we can also turn on a dime, tailor programs that fit the needs of employers, as well as for people who might want to change careers, or who are unemployed and looking for a new career. This center really is going to be wonderful.”
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