CALIPATRIA — To help a majority of the student body at Calipatria Unified School District find college or career opportunities after high school, Superintendent Doug Kline began plans to create a renewable energy program four years ago.
“The fact that we are only able to send 15 to 20 percent of our graduates to college bothers me,” Kline said. “The other 85 to 80 percent are more than capable of succeeding but because of money or other reasons, they can’t go to college.”
After an initial grant to build such a program fell through due to implementation issues, Kline went back to the drawing board and recently saw his vision for the program materialize.
Together with 8minutenergy Renewables, the district created a Renewable Energy Vocational Program, which will train high school graduates for careers in the solar industry beginning next fall.
“The reason I was so passionate about pursuing a program like this is because it gives these kids options,” Kline said. “If we can train them here and now and send them out into the workforce prepared, it will benefit everyone.”
In addition to providing hands-on training from 8minutenergy employees, the program will also feature a number of guest lectures and visits to photovoltaic power-generation facilities in the area.
“It’s an exciting time to be a part of the solar industry,” said Tom Buttgenbach, president of 8minutenergy Renewables. “Our solar projects in the Imperial Valley will generate billions in economic output, several hundred construction jobs and about 60 permanent, stable, well-paying jobs with benefits.
“The REV Program is a win-win for 8minutenergy and the school district, and demonstrates our long-term commitment to the people in the region,” Buttgenbach continued.
8minutenergy counsel Sal Salazar said he was also looking forward to the beginning of the program.
“The district already has a successful welding program and we hope to add to that,” Salazar said.
Kline said he decided to incorporate the welding program into the REV program as a way to provide students with more options.
“I think the more diverse the training the more prepared these students will be,” Kline said. “If solar energy isn’t the route they want to take, their training in welding could help them get into geothermal. We just want to be able to provide them with options.”
Salazar echoed Kline’s statement and added the extra training would benefit everyone involved in the project.
“It’s an advantage for us because upon completing the program students will have experience in solar panel installation and they will be able to assist the engineers,” Salazar said.
“We are very excited about the future of solar energy in the Imperial Valley and what it will bring to the students and the community.”
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