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Green energy jobs funded by grant to Quincy and Belleville community colleges

Ameren Missouri’s operations include a 400-megawatt High Prairie Renewable Energy Center in northern Missouri. It’s the state’s largest wind facility.
Ameren Missouri
John Wood Community College and Southwestern Illinois College have been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to be Industrial Assessment Centers.

Community colleges in Quincy and Belleville have been tapped by the U.S. Department of Energy to be Industrial Assessment Centers.

John Wood Community College in Quincy and Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville are among four community colleges in Illinois tasked with bolstering green energy across the state.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Dave Hetzler, the dean of technical education at John Wood Community College. “It’s going to give us a chance to work with our small and medium-size manufacturers to help them with some of their energy auditing programs.”

The $3 million federal grant will help the Illinois-based consortium of community colleges find solutions to reduce waste and pollution for small and medium-size manufacturers and create ways to get students to pursue green energy jobs. Hetzler said some of the grant funding will prioritize green energy-focused classes.

“We’re starting to develop curriculum so we can offer training to our area on wind, solar, power distribution,” Hetzler said.

In the Quincy area, more emerging energy jobs are in solar. Hetzler also pointed to a growing number of HVAC job opportunities popping up as more businesses work to become energy efficient.

“The employment outlook is going to be stronger than it is right now,” Hetzler said. “We’re sure of that.”

The community colleges will have an opportunity to work with the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center. The partnership among Illinois Community College Board, the four Illinois community colleges, and IMEC is one of 17 consortiums chosen to be Industrial Assessment Centers nationwide. In a statement, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the news highlights the state’s continued investment in higher education and clean energy.

“The four institutions that have been chosen to serve as Industrial Assessment Centers are cornerstones of our commitment to meeting our clean energy goals and they offer unique career opportunities in every corner of the state,” said Pritzker.

Southwestern Illinois College received $595,000 of the multimillion-dollar federal grant. It came on the heels of a $20 million manufacturing training academy the school built. That’s set to open this fall. Scott Queener, the director of enrollment development and campus operations at SWIC, said the timing is good for students.

“We wanted to expand our manufacturing,” Queener said. “We wanted to bring it into the modern era with the new machines and having a training academy housed there for our students. I think we’ve positioned ourselves to do that, and this grant comes along as kind of a perfect marriage that we can also operate an assessment center, which not only helps our students but also helps our community and local employers.”

“Based on some of the market research data that we got, employers are wanting students to have this skill set, this knowledge,” Queener said.

The three-year-long grant begins April 15.

Marissanne is the afternoon newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.