Regional Energy Industry Forum: Defining the future of energy technologies and services in Florida

FLATE and Hillsborough Community College jointly hosted the National Science Foundation-sponsored Regional Energy Industry Forum. This day-long event was held June 30 at HCC’s South Shore Campus in Ruskin, and aimed at identifying and defining new energy technologies and services in Florida. Facilitated by the NSF Advanced Technology Environmental and Energy Center (ATEEC) the meeting of energy, industry and education experts was one of a series of 8 energy-related nationwide forums to develop comprehensive regional snapshots of the emerging energy sector.

The central focus of the Forum was to identify emerging regional workforce needs for technicians and programs at community colleges that prepare students for renewable energy- related careers. Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE said “When ATEEC approached FLATE in February to host a forum, I was very excited. The data we get back will be integrated with recent FLDOE and Workforce Florida reports on alternative energy and green jobs to help better define current and future industry needs to support emerging and changing jobs in many sectors or our economy which helps us provide current technical programs to meet those needs. Being part of a national effort will also let us see what is happening in Florida in the context of what is happening elsewhere as the country, and where there might be synergetic activities or projects.”

Discussions focused on assessing the need for previously identified technician-level occupations in the workforce, creating an inventory of existing supporting documentation (labor market surveys, advisory board reports, state workforce development projections, etc.) and adding any missing documentation that could alter the perspective of energy sector workforce needs. The Forum also served as a platform to develop a matrix and regional listing of known current projects, programs, centers, and partnerships supported through private/public funding at local, state or national levels.

Forum data will be used to compile an in-depth listing of predominant regional occupations as well as current regional efforts to achieve technician level standards for licensure or certification in Florida. Forum results will represent Florida’s component of a national composite study and serve as a comparison point for a list of training programs and best practices for predominant occupations in Florida.

Cindy Amor, organizational effectiveness manager at TECO Energy in Tampa and a participant in the Forum said “the most valuable part of the forum is that it brought industry and education together to assess the future path of renewable energy in Florida, and determine strategies to prepare workers for the future direction of renewable energy.” Amor says the biggest challenge is “interpreting the needs of the industry and integrating it into practical knowledge and skills.” She hopes education can meet those needs with better trained; better skilled workers that are prepared to meet the challenges of the future.

For more information about the Forum and/or ongoing renewable energy-related initiatives in Florida contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at 813.259.6577/barger@fl-ate.org.