Greenfield Community College officials testify at congressional hearing about energy-related jobs and education

Last modified: Thursday, July 03, 2014
GREENFIELD — For a second time this year, Greenfield Community College’s program in renewable energy and energy efficiency is being recognized by national leaders in Washington, D.C.

President Bob Pura and Associate Professor Teresa Jones on Tuesday attended a congressional hearing on energy-related jobs and education at the invitation of the House Natural Resources Committee.

Its subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held the hearing described as “American Energy Jobs: Opportunities for Education.”

“I am so very happy for the faculty, staff and students of the (college’s energy programs) that they are being recognized for their good and hard work,” said Pura. “The subcommittee is interested in hearing how to link education with the need for a solar energy workforce.”

Last week, the college received a surprise call from the office of U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, requesting that GCC representatives speak at his hearing. DeFazio is the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over energy, federal lands, oceans and fisheries, and Native American issues.

Jones is the coordinator for GCC’s renewable energy/energy efficiency program.

The committee learned of GCC’s program which was recently recognized in an education and jobs speech by President Barack Obama.

“One of the reasons GCC’s program in renewable energy and energy efficiency is so strong is that it reflects a deeply held value in the community,” Pura said. “Our community really understands the importance of sustainable energy systems and how such systems impact the environment and our economic well-being. Testifying at this hearing is an opportunity to impact national policy. The subcommittee has asked exactly the right program to come to the table. It’s a wonderful statement about our college and community as a whole.”

“I am extremely proud that GCC has been called on to testify before this subcommittee. Congress and the nation have a great deal to learn from them,” said U.S. Rep. James McGovern of Worcester. “Greenfield Community College’s curriculum is providing students with the skills necessary to support the development and deployment of renewable energy technology across the Commonwealth and the country.”

GCC’s renewable energy program is designed to train students with the skills needed for the new field as more people embrace renewable energy.

“There is a great deal of opportunity for economic growth, job creation and job attainment in the sustainable energy field,” said Jones. “There is a huge potential for domestic jobs in the area of energy efficiency upgrades, but people need knowledge and advanced skills to do those jobs. To participate in this rapidly evolving and technological field, people need to have a solid educational background, especially in science.

“This field is already very different from five years ago, so businesses and workers need to be able to adapt,” she added. “The key piece for us is figuring out where the best job opportunities are and, what people need to know to succeed in getting those jobs or starting businesses. We look to our business and other community partners to help guide that process.”

Renewable energy refers to energy sources that cannot be depleted, such as solar energy to heat water and buildings, and electricity generated by solar, wind and hydropower. Energy efficiency means reducing energy use and minimizing energy waste — a first step in managing energy use wisely.

On May 9, GCC was recognized for its programs in renewable energy by the White House’s Solar Progress Report: Advancing Toward a Clean Energy Future.