Mini Grants for Solar Education and Training in the CA/HI Partnership

During Fall 2012 and Spring 2013, the California/Hawaii (CA/HI) RTP developed a series of four mini grant programs providing up to $15,000 per recipient depending on the program, to spur solar energy education and training at California’s Community Colleges.

Solicitation for the first of the programs was sent in October 2012, and a final solicitation was sent in June 2013 to more than 200 partnering faculty and institutions.

“The intent of the mini-grant program is to provide maximum benefit while allowing experimentation to identify what ‘best practices’ emerge from diverse approaches,” said Gerald Bernstein, Director Advanced Transportation and Energy Initiative, City College of San Francisco, and program manager for the CA/HI RTP.

To qualify, applicants had to include a commitment from a dean or higher administrator, commitment of a specific staff and a share of their time to completing the project by the end of 2013. According to Bernstein, in chronologic order of their implementation, the four mini-grant programs are:

1)    PV Sales and Marketing to help colleges integrate PV sales and marketing courses into existing solar installation programs and courses. The courses permit a variety of approaches, including audiences (professionals, traditional students), durations (full semester, short courses), and delivery modes (classroom v. online training). The NABCEP Job Task Analysis was suggested, but not required for this round.

2)    IREC Credential Program Accreditation/Trainer Certification, designed to upgrade the variety and quality of solar instructor training. These grants will cover out-of-pocket fees by colleges that commit to seek the IREC credential.

3)    PV installation courses taught in the Spanish language to increase employment prospects for individuals who have basic construction and/or electrical skills, but who have not had an opportunity to supplement these with PV-specific training due to language barriers.

4)    Hands-on, real world PV installation opportunities for California community college (CCC) students and faculty with GRID Alternatives, a California non-profit that has installed more than 8.5 MW of solar power for more than 3,000 families. GRID Alternatives will host six community college teams at diverse locations around the state to work on actual installations during the fall of 2013.

While the mini-grant program currently targets California programs, the CA/HI RTP team is assessing if a similar approach would work in Hawaii.

“California has 112 community colleges; Hawaii has seven,” said Bernstein. “We’re finding that Hawaii’s smaller community college system lends itself more to a collective, collaborative approach for this first round of mini-grants than the competitive application process used in California.”

Gerald Bernstein contributed to this post.

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