More than 339 workers found employment as ground crew, substation operator apprentices, plant operator trainees, boiler operators, energy analysts, meter technicians and hydro utility workers within organizations across the five-state region, according to the Pacific Northwest Center of Excellence for Clean Energy (PNCECE) at Centralia College, Centralia, Wash. This is a record-breaking number set by its three-year $5-million U.S. Department of Energy Smart Grid Workforce Training grant.

“We achieved nearly 145 percent of our placement goal which was set as part of our original contract award in 2010,” PNCECE Executive Director Barbara Hins-Turner, said. The placement goal was set at 234 workers.

The grant, which was leveraged to $12 million by matching funds, included Bonneville Power Administration, Pacific Northwest National Lab, consumer- and investor-owned utilities, energy manufacturing employers, organized labor and education partners throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Utah. Funds created smart grid training opportunities; an online information portal for utlities, students and job seekers; and simulated training labs throughout the region.

“We’re very proud of our consortium’s accomplishments, “Hins-Turner said of the smart grid project which will be completed this month. “We believe this project has fulfilled the purpose of ARRA (American Recovery & Reinvestment Act) funding to rebuild the economy of each of our partnering states within the Pacific Northwest region and the nation as a whole.”

More than 6,000 individuals received smart grid energy training through pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship incumbent worker, and graduate and professional development courses, as well as hands-on learning sessions provided to high school students, high school STEM teachers, and others.

“The ability of the Center (PNCECE) to facilitate the long-standing industry-labor-education-government partnership is the keystone to leveraging the power of collaboration,” Troy Nutter, Puget Sound Energy Manager/Operational Training, said. “Regional collaboration is essential to address workforce development concerns in the energy sector now and well in to the future.”

“We believe this project has fulfilled the purpose of the ARRA (American Recovery & Reinvestment Act) funding to rebuild the economy of our state, the Pacific Northwest, and the nation as a whole,” Hins-Turner added.

PNCECE has been the lead or has been involved with state and federal grants since its inception in 2005. It is one of 10 Centers of Excellence in Washington state that represents an industry sector strategy. PNCECE serves as an economic development driver for the energy/power industry.