Several dozen COC students, staff members and public officials demonstrated their support for the college Thursday by attending a building dedication on one of the hottest afternoons of the year.
The new structure is the Applied Technology Education Center, the first permanent building to go up on the College of the Canyons East Campus in Canyon Country.
Designed to give students a new selection of hands-on learning and training opportunities, the ATEC’s approximately 10,000 square feet of workshop and laboratory space provide the space needed to offer the type of Career Technical Education (CTE) training that leads directly to jobs.
“The Canyon Country campus continues to grow and evolve in response to the community’s needs,” Dr. Dena Maloney, vice president of the Canyon Country Campus and Economic Development, said in a statement. “The Applied Technology Education Center will expand the college’s ability to provide students with cutting-edge education that leads directly to employment.”
Included in the building’s design are five modular buildings, accompanying modular restrooms, and a permanent, spacious, facility for the college’s automotive technology program, previously housed in the auto shop at Saugus High School.
“Having our new automotive labs on the Canyon Country campus will also make it much more convenient for auto technology students who are interested in taking other courses,” Maloney said.
Other programs housed in the ATEC buiding are plumbing, water systems technology and the college’s new solar technology and renewable energy program.
A highlight of Thursday’s dedication event was the presentation of ceremonial gifts to COC Chancellor Dianne G. Van Hook. One, from the ATEC’s plumbing and water systems program staff, was a water-conserving toilet with a pot of flowers in the bowl.
The construction of the college’s ATEC facility coincides with ongoing state and nationwide trends in the utilities and power generation industries to reduce consumer dependence on nonrenewable energy sources through a variety of wind and solar energy projects spanning all 50 states.
“Along with the increased amount of renewable energy being generated will come an increased demand for a workforce of highly skilled solar technicians,” said Kristin Houser, Dean of Career Technical Education at the college.
In fact, a survey of the nation’s solar industry, released in January 2011, showed that more than 50 percent of all solar firms expect to add jobs over the next year, with less than 3 percent expecting layoffs.
Those same solar companies also anticipate a 26 percent increase in the solar industry’s workforce over the next year, representing approximately 50,000 new jobs across all related industries.
With that, the solar job positions expected to be among the fastest growing include: photovoltaic (PV) system installers, electricians and roofers with experience handling solar installations, sales personnel at wholesale solar firms and sales representatives at installation firms.
To help meet that projected need, College of the Canyons officials have developed a series of CTE courses that will prepare students for a variety of different jobs within the solar power and other renewable energy industries.
The college’s first solar energy technician certificate program will include 13 units of instruction spread over three courses — Introduction to Energy Technology, Solar Photovoltaics Systems and Solar Thermal Systems — with students typically able to complete the program in two to three semesters.
The first course in the program, Introduction to Energy Technology, debuted at the Canyon Country campus this fall, with subsequent lab courses in the program scheduled to debut in spring 2012.
Including instruction in electricity fundamentals, alternative energy technologies, energy efficiency concepts and industry relevant mathematics, this introductory course also serves as a prerequisite for future degree and certificate options in the college’s solar and energy series.
Upon successful completion of the solar energy technician certificate program, students will posses a detailed understanding of the PV and solar thermal energy technologies being employed today and will be qualified to accept entry-level positions in the fields of solar PV and solar thermal design, installation and maintenance.
Students who complete the program will also be eligible to sit for the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) exams in the areas of entry-level solar thermal and/or entry-level photovoltaics.
College officials are in the process of developing additional solar technology and energy program options in the areas of photovoltaic sales and customer service, weatherization and energy efficient technology, energy code compliance and energy auditing.
Once these program options are developed, students who first complete the introductory course prerequisite, Introduction to Energy Technology, will be eligible to enroll in the solar or general energy technology certificate program option of their choice.
Students interested in learning more about the College of the Canyons solar technology program or the lineup of alternative energy courses can visit www.canyons.edu/solar.