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Worker Education

Sen. Gordon Harold Smith

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Mr. President, today I highlight the importance of acknowledging and celebrating extraordinary efforts by Americans who have led the way in protecting and preserving America's natural resources. I am honored to congratulate three educational institutions in my State of Oregon, Columbia Gorge Community College, Lane Community College and the Oregon Institute of Technology.

Recently, Columbia Gorge Community College received $1.6 million to support the college's community-based job training program to develop skilled technicians for renewable energy facilities such as wind, solar, hydropower and biofuels production. The funding is part of the Department of Labor's Community-Based Job Training Grant Initiative to help community colleges provide area students and workers with the skills needed to stay competitive in up-and-coming industries. The program is the only one of its kind on the west coast. Just in the Pacific Northwest, developers of wind energy facilities will need 300-500 additional workers in the next decade. Since the fall of 2007, Columbia Gorge Community College has offered a 1-year Certificate and a 2-year Associate of Applied Science Degree in Renewable Energy Technology.

Lane Community College in Eugene, OR was recently commended for their certificate and 2-year degree programs which train students in energy management and renewable energy. Graduates of the program are in high demand by renewable energy companies. Lane Community College is quickly gaining recognition as a national leader in sustainability and has won five awards in the past 2 years, including the Campus Sustainability Leadership Award from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, and the Outstanding College Recycling Program Award from the National Recycling Coalition.

The Oregon Institute of Technology, OIT, also has earned distinction for offering the Nation's first 4-year undergraduate degree program in renewable energy. The Institute is on track to graduate the first class of students this year. Graduating students can seek employment in variety of fields including design, engineering, installation, auditing and programming within the renewable energy sector. Additionally, OIT is working to become the only college campus in the world to be completely powered by geothermal energy.

I believe that we have a responsibility to encourage efforts to increase the availability of renewable energy and conserve our natural resources. Oregon continues to build on a long history of innovation in environmental policy and practice. These community colleges are leading the way in educating these workers and providing highly skilled workers to the rapidly expanding renewable energy sector in our State and the Nation. I commend them for their efforts and pledge my full support as they move forward.