The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) Board approved the creation of the NJ Wind Turbine Tech Training Challenge during its May 12 board meeting. Supported by funding from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and aligned with Gov. Phil Murphy’s WIND Council recommendations, the NJ Wind Turbine Tech Training Challenge is a competitive grant program that will award a grant of up to $1 million to a New Jersey community college that collaborates with union trade organizations and industry partners to establish an offshore wind turbine technician training program. The training program must result in an industry-recognized, credit-bearing certificate program that is part of a pathway to an Associate degree or higher.
This grant program is part of the Murphy administration’s whole of government approach to achieving the Governor’s goal of generating 7.5 GW of offshore wind by 2035 and positioning New Jersey as a hub for the American offshore wind industry. Other initiatives include the construction of the New Jersey Wind Port, a state-of-the-art monopile manufacturing facility at the Port of Paulsboro, and the Offshore Wind Safety Training Challenge, a $3 million grant program to establish an industry-recognized Global Wind Organization safety training program and facility in New Jersey. Taken together, these efforts will ensure New Jersey has the infrastructure, supply chain, and workforce needed to support offshore wind projects up and down the East Coast.
“Offshore wind is a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity that will bring billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to New Jersey,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “It is crucial that we take steps now to prepare to meet the industry’s workforce needs and to ensure equitable access to these opportunities for all New Jerseyans. The Wind Turbine Technician Training Challenge leverages our top-notch community colleges and robust network of labor unions and trades training programs to achieve both of these goals in a way that meets the industry’s needs.”
“As New Jersey transitions to 100% clean energy through initiatives like offshore wind, it is imperative that we cultivate a workforce prepared to meet the emerging opportunities building and operating clean energy infrastructure offers,” said Joseph Fiordaliso, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. “This grant opportunity demonstrates the State’s commitment to ensuring that the workforce of tomorrow has a place in our innovation economy and is grown right here in one of New Jersey’s community colleges.”
“A critical step toward ensuring the state’s future success in offshore wind is strengthening our investment in workforce training and education today,” said Department of Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. “Offshore wind will create thousands of good-paying, permanent jobs. The state’s community colleges are well-positioned to equip our workforce with the skills and knowledge they need to fill these family sustaining positions.”
“Through this challenge, we are helping to ensure that New Jersey’s talent pipeline remains strong and our economic rebound prioritizes workforce opportunities for students to hone their skills and obtain necessary credentials,” said NJ Secretary of Higher Education Dr. Brian Bridges. “The program created as a result of this challenge will fuel a diverse and inclusive pipeline of talented workers and propel the state’s rapidly-growing clean energy sector to the forefront of the global stage.”
Offshore wind is a rapidly expanding international industry that Governor Murphy has prioritized as a target sector for driving long-term, sustainable economic growth. To ensure equitable access to the economic opportunities offshore wind creates, Governor Murphy established the WIND Council in 2019 to engage industry and local stakeholder groups to evaluate New Jersey’s existing workforce development assets and identify gaps that must be addressed to strengthen the state’s leadership position in offshore wind. On April 22, 2020, the WIND Council released a report summarizing its recommendations. Both the WIND Council report and the NJBPU’s New Jersey Offshore Wind Strategic Plan noted that there are currently no offshore wind turbine technician training programs in New Jersey and stressed the need to establish a program as soon as possible.
The NJ Wind Turbine Tech Training Challenge will address this gap in New Jersey’s offshore wind ecosystem by providing an up to $1 million grant to a New Jersey community college to collaborate with labor organizations and industry stakeholders to design and implement a curriculum that meets industry standards for wind turbine technician training. The NJEDA chose to focus on community colleges because these institutions are uniquely positioned to provide a holistic program with a stackable credential such as an Associate Degree, serve a diverse population, offer a wide range of support services, and engage industry and labor partners as needed. Working with community colleges also increases accessibility to the programs created using Challenge funding by creating the opportunity for participating students to benefit from Governor Murphy’s free community college program.
Applicants for the NJ Wind Turbine Tech Training Challenge must submit a plan to develop and operate an industry-recognized offshore wind turbine technician training program that includes a credit-bearing certificate that is part of a pathway to an Associate degree or higher; incorporates collaborations with with labor unions and industry stakeholders; targets and supports a diverse and inclusive pool of training participants; and creates clear and inclusive career pathways for students to enter and grow in the offshore wind industry. Applicants must plan to launch the program described in the application by the first quarter of 2023.
Recognizing the importance of collaborating with labor unions and industry when establishing a turbine technician training program, the NJEDA has required community colleges that apply for the grant to include plans to collaborate with labor union groups and representatives of potential employers to ensure the curriculum is aligned with industry needs. Community colleges will also be encouraged to submit applications that include collaborations with other entities as needed to meet program goals.
Over the coming months, the NJEDA, Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, and Department of Labor will jointly administer and evaluate applications for the Offshore Wind Turbine Tech Training Challenge as part of the ongoing cross-agency collaboration to engage diverse stakeholders and build a strong offshore wind industry in New Jersey with equitable access to opportunity for all New Jerseyans.
The NJEDA will be hosting an informational webinar on the NJ Wind Turbine Tech Training Challenge on June 2, 2021. More information and a link to register for the webinar are available at https://www.njeda.com/wind-turbine-training/.
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