Special to The Green Register by Kyle Crider, Manager – Environmental Operations, Ecotech Institute
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Last week I had the honor and pleasure of attending the first graduation at our Ecotech Institute in Aurora (Denver), Colorado. Two years ago, 41 visionaries believed us when we told them the future was green with jobs in the energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors. Our future LEED Gold campus with its solar trees, wind turbines, and electric vehicle charger was still a year away when these students signed on. Last week, each graduate received a visionary award in addition to his or her diploma. This was our way of saying, "Thank you for trusting us in this shared vision."
We believe that trust has paid off. Employers including NextEra Energy Resources and M-I SWACO are interviewing our graduates and making job offers. Five of our graduates have even been offered a job on a wind project in Hawaii. How cool is that? We're training the people who will be doing the real work of sustainability, installing solar panels and repairing wind turbines. There's a new word for clean, green, hands-on jobs: Ecotech. Our students don't just talk about sustainability—they build it.
Former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter delivered the commencement speech at last week's graduation. Ritter, who currently works as the director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University, "gets it" when it comes to Ecotech jobs. In his speech, Ritter emphasized not only how Ecotech jobs grew even during the recession, but also how important they are to saving the planet from the dangers of climate change. "You will change the world," he advised the graduates. Ritter is echoing our own beliefs with those words. But more importantly, he is echoing the students' own beliefs. They know they are going to change the world, or they would not have come to Ecotech Institute from all across the U.S.
But small groups have to grow in order to change the world, and Ecotech Institute is growing. Our current population of almost 500 students represents every state except Maine, South Carolina, and Utah. We also have multiple foreign countries represented at Ecotech. In anticipation of more growth, we are nearing completion of our second Ecotech Institute, which is scheduled to open next year in Austin, Texas.
Ecotech Institute is even changing us—Education Corporation of America (ECA). Planning for the first Ecotech led to me being hired as ECA's first Manager of Environmental Operations. I was hired to help ECA "walk the Ecotech talk," not only here at our Corporate headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama, but at each of our 35 locations across the U.S., including Virginia College, Culinard, and Golf Academy of America campuses. So even if you can't attend one of our Ecotech Institutes, don't worry. Ecotech training and jobs are coming to you. But what if you're already an established working professional, who needs to learn more about Ecotech for today's changing business world? We've got you covered there, too: We're planning to offer a one-week Ecotech certificate training course suitable for everyone from Executives on down.
But don't just take our word for it. Here's what the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics has to say about Ecotech jobs.
"Solar panels don't install themselves. Wind turbines don't manufacture themselves. Homes and buildings don't retrofit or weatherize themselves. In our industrial society, trees don't even PLANT themselves, anymore. Real people must do all of that work."
Kyle Crider is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ecotech Institute or Education Corporation of America. Email Kyle at email@example.com