NSF Advanced Tech Ed Grant – BTC

Advancing Training Pathways for the Sustainable Energy Workforce

PROJECT DURATION: 07/01/2014 – 06/30/2017
COST: Total Project Value $199,996
SUB-RECIPIENT PROJECT MANAGER: Barbara Hins-Turner, Executive Director, Center of Excellence for Clean Energy, A Centralia College Partnership
FISCAL AGENT: Bellingham Technical College, Award #1400490


Bellingham Technical College (BTC) received a grant from the National Science Foundation with the goal of advancing training pathways for the renewable energy workforce.  Bellingham Technical College, Western Washington University (WWU), and the Pacific Northwest Center of Excellence for Clean Energy have worked with industry to develop career training pathways in renewable energy that advance the capabilities of students, increase employability of graduates, and provide industry with a highly skilled workforce.  This focus of this work is on creating degree pathways in clean energy including certificate options, an associate of applied science degree, and transfer options.  After discussion with industry partners and analyzing career profiles put together by the Center of Excellence for Clean Energy, BTC chose power electronics as the focus for the core technical knowledge base of the AAS-T degree in Engineering Technology: Clean Energy.  These technical courses provide students with foundational technical training skills that enhance job placement after graduation.


Bellingham Technical College (BTC) now offers an Associate of Applied Science – Transfer (AAS-T) degree in Engineering Technology: Clean Energy.  In addition to the AAS-T degree, BTC also offers a 15-credit Clean Energy Certificate.  The AAS-T degree consists of academic, technology, and industry training coursework detailed on the program requirement sheet (below).  Upon completion of both academic core and specialized electronic technology training coursework at BTC, students are prepared to enter the workforce as a technician or can choose to directly articulate to the Institute of Energy Studies at Western Washington University.  The academic coursework focuses on contextualized math, science, and technology coursework that transfers into WWU Institute for Energy Studies while providing a solid foundation for students planning to enter the workforce directly after graduation.  The electronics technology coursework prepares the student for jobs related to clean energy, specifically in the area of electronics.  Knowledge of this technology is useful a wide variety of clean energy sectors including wind, solar, hydropower, and utilities.

Having options to enter into the renewable energy industry at a variety of technical levels is powerful for students and is important to industry.  Furthermore, since the AAS-T degree consists of a strong foundation of transferable academic coursework, students have the option to return to school after working in the field to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Energy Studies at WWU.

Program Learning Objectives

  • Describe and evaluate the impact of renewable energy within the context of sustainability, economics, policy, and society;
  • Describe and apply a working knowledge of energy resources and their technological systems;
  • Service/repair renewable energy systems and assist engineers with the design of renewable systems by applying basic knowledge of electrical, electronics, heat/power, and basic engineering concepts;
  • Apply basic principles of math, science, and design theory to solve engineering problems;
  • Utilize equipment, instruments, software and technical reference materials currently used in industry;
  • Function effectively as a member of a technical team;
  • Engage in, and recognize the need for, self-directed continuing professional development;
  • Demonstrate critical thinking as well as technical and information literacy skills;
  • Communicate effectively using writing, speaking, and graphics skills.
  • Qualify for employment in the renewable energy field as an engineering technician or related job title.
  • Apply ethical and professional practice within the field of renewable energy and engineering technology.

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