When a new community college certificate program in Green Building Technology opened last fall at Erie Community College, demand was so high a second section had to be added. Among the students are displaced workers and laborers needing to learn about new technology.
Andrew Sako, who is president of the Faculty Federation of ECC and a NYSUT board member, said there are now day and evening sections for the one-year program that meets demand for workers who need to be skilled in green building design, construction, renovation and energy management. Sako is chair of the Building Management Program at ECC in Buffalo.
“Many of the students are displaced workers. Some have construction or maintenance experience, and some have advanced degrees. They need to learn new skills,” Sako said.
NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi received a tour of the program when it first started. He and Sako checked out a new lab that simulates operation of wind turbines, solar water heating systems and photovoltaic components. Training units simulate geothermal heating and cooling systems using the air beneath the earth.
Iannuzzi said the program is another example of "why we should be expanding access to community colleges, not cutting funding. Community colleges play an instrumental role in advancing cutting-edge technology and retraining workers. They provide an affordable place for education."
Sako said students need a basic knowledge of electronics, such as residential wiring, college-level math and knowledge of sciences to get into the program They work with a company that deconstructs homes and reuses components "that would normally go into the landfill," Sako said. Framing lumber can be reused, as can brick and block that can be ground up and used for fill or other products.
"Our program is designed to evolve as needs and technology change," said Sako, “What I'm trying to get across to people is that community colleges are the backbone of our economy here in western New York and they're what's going to drive our economic recovery. It's really important to illustrate the kinds of things we're doing.”
— Liza Frenette