UH Receives $2.5M DOE Award to Develop Workforce Training Programs

The UH Energy program, through a coalition led by the University of Houston's College of Technology, has received a $2.5 million stimulus award from the Department of Energy to develop a smart grid workforce training program to prepare the next generation of workers in the electric power industry.

The DOE award was awarded to the Smart Grid Energy Training Coalition, which includes UH, CenterPoint Energy, San Jacinto College, the Power Technology Institute, SkillsNET and the Texas Business and Education Coalition. The grant will be used to assess the workforce needs and develop training programs for the replacement of employees lost through attrition, augmentation of skills for existing employees and skill development for new employees.

"This grant is a tremendous achievement for UH and the coalition, which is dedicated to developing a regional and national skill center that will be the focus of hands-on training for electric power sector employees," said Raymond E. Cline Jr., a research professor in UH's College of Technology and program manager for the project. "The Houston region is engaged in significant build-outs of smart meter and intelligent grid systems that require attention to workforce training issues."

The training programs to be developed will focus on activities that support electricians, line workers, technicians, system operators, power system engineers, cyber security specialists and transmission planners. A "Power Training Campus" will be established within UH's new Energy Research Center to support the hands-on training programs.

"We are very pleased the coalition has received this DOE award for smart grid workforce training program development," said Kenny Mercado, senior vice president of CenterPoint Energy's smart grid deployment. "These funds will help provide training programs that are a part of our efforts to deliver more quickly the benefits of smart meters and the intelligent grid to Houston-area electric consumers."

With its existing programs in electric power engineering technology, network centric technology, cyber security and program/project management, UH's College of Technology is uniquely qualified to develop these training programs for the electric power sector.

CenterPoint Energy is implementing a smart grid within the Houston region and is a driving force in the achievement of a national clean-energy smart grid. San Jacinto College provides a broad range of both remedial and augmentation skill development to a targeted workforce.

The Power Technology Institute is recognized within the power industry as providing some of the best and largest technology-based programs and graduates in the country. SkillsNET brings a strong set of capabilities and experience to rapidly assess industry needs and define work requirements. The Texas Business and Education Coalition was established by Texas business leaders to engage educators in a long-term effort to improve public education in Texas.

"The coalition will integrate secondary STEM/CTE courses, post secondary Skill Certificates, industry job requirements, and regional labor market demand into a seamless talent pipeline management system designed to prepare students and workers for future career opportunities," said Michael Brown, SkillsNET founder and CEO. "The coalition is determined to design the gold standard for this important process."

In all, the DOE awarded nearly $100 million for 54 smart grid workforce training programs across the country. Programs developed through these grants will train approximately 30,000 workers who will help modernize the nation's electrical grid and implement smart grid technologies.

The DOE funding is part of more than $4 billion in Recovery Act funding allocated for smart grid deployment and demonstration projects nationally. The Smart Grid Energy Coalition's grant was the largest awarded in Texas.

The Smart Grid Energy Training Coalition will execute agreements that provide credit transfer across technical, associates, and baccalaureate programs. A general articulation agreement exists between UH and San Jacinto College, and UH will extend articulation agreements to other technical and community colleges as the Coalition's membership grows.

The coalition is scheduled to begin working on developing the training programs on July 1 and it will center its hands-on training within UH's Energy Research Center.

UH recently acquired a 69‐acre business park, which is now the Energy Research Center. To move forward toward its strategic principles, UH is building energy research and training clusters, which will combine private sector, university, and community college teaching and training alongside teams of nationally renowned scientists, promising junior faculty, top graduate students and core research facilities.