TD Bank grants RU $1M to develop Green Jobs Academy to build a wind turbine and training to students

Green Jobs Academy will teach students how to work in solar and wind power industries. - Graphic / Julia Quennessen

This year, The Rowan University Foundation was one of the ten $1 million grant recipients across the United States and Canada for the TD Ready Challenge because of their new Green Jobs Academy initiative, which is currently in development. The TD Ready Challenge is a program that selects nonprofits and organizations that are seeking to combat climate change and winners are rewarded with a generous grant.

Green Jobs Academy is a new program that will offer training and education to its students and will prepare them to work in the solar and wind power industries. The academy will also be building an educational wind turbine to provide students with a hands-on learning experience. 

This turbine will be a full-size land wind turbine, but students in the program will also be trained to work in the offshore wind power industry. Offshore wind farms are a sustainable energy initiative that has been a hot topic in New Jersey recently. 

While many people are excited about how offshore wind can be used to combat climate change, others believe that it may be harming beachside communities and ecosystems. Some people have speculated that the wind farms could be contributing to the increase in whale deaths along the East Coast, despite the fact that there has not been much evidence that these two are correlated, according to the Marine Mammal Commission (MMC), a government organization designed to protect marine ecosystems. 

In a statement that went out on Feb. 21, the MMC announced that “Despite several reports in the media, there is no evidence to link these strandings to offshore wind energy development.”

Rowan’s Green Jobs Academy is an initiative that will offer South Jersey residents the opportunity to train to work in the industries of solar and offshore wind energy. These hands-on programs will allow students to obtain certificates that help them get jobs in these industries as well.

Jennifer Totora, the Marketing & Events Specialist of the Rowan School of Earth & Environment. Totora was also the person who wrote the grant for the project.

“For example… people would be hands-on learning how to repair and install photovoltaic systems, like really big solar panel fields, right? Or they would actually learn how to get up into the wind turbines and be one of those people who climb up there and repair them,” Totora said.

The $1 million grant will be going towards building the wind turbine, getting equipment for students, providing scholarships, and for the certifications that the program will have. 

The certificate programs will start off at the community college level, one of the partners for the project being Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ). The program will also target students who may not be looking to attend a four-year school like Rowan. There is not a set curriculum yet, as the program is still new and being developed.

“For it to be most accessible, we really probably are going to emphasize it a little bigger at RCSJ in the early days, and then build toward opportunity, certifications, and certificates here at Rowan University,” said Eddie Guerra, associate dean of the Rowan School of Earth & Environment.

The Green Jobs Academy will also allow students the opportunity to get a high-paying job without a four-year bachelor’s degree. 

“The fact that these are really good paying jobs with just a certification I think is really attractive to some people. A photovoltaic technician can make $45,000, or wind turbine technician can make $60,000,” Totora said.

The idea for the initiative came after the pandemic when many oil refineries and energy jobs were shut down in Paulsboro, a South Jersey town approximately 12.5 miles from Glassboro. In late 2020, construction on the Paulsboro Marine Terminal began, which created a state-funded manufacturing facility for wind turbines. This opened up a lot of job opportunities for people in the area. 

“We saw an opportunity to develop training for the people who live there to kind of redirect their ability to create jobs, right? So you know, the opportunity is there, but without that training, they won’t be able to have that chance to pick up those jobs that are right where they live,” Totora said. 

In establishing this new program, Green Jobs Academy also hopes to make an impact on the environment and how people think about where they get their energy.

“I am hoping that by doing this… we’re showing that green energy is worth supporting, that people are able to get really good jobs through it. And so it’s a worthwhile cause both economically and sustainably,” Totora said. 

The program is still in its early stages and does not yet have a date for when its first class will be enrolled. 

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