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Developing a Future-oriented Workforce for Renewable Energy Industries

By October 27, 2022January 20th, 2023No Comments

by Dr. Lauren E. Beckingham

A collaborative NSF project between Auburn University (AU) Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (Lauren Beckingham) and Department of Geosciences (Karen McNeal) and Tuskegee University (TU) Department of Mechanical Engineering (John Solomon) aims to foster a much-needed workforce for renewable energy industries. The project seeks to draw a link between engineering undergraduate students’ environmental knowledge-attitude-willingness and preparedness to join targeted renewable energy industries/institutions. As part of this project, students in undergraduate engineering classes at AU and TU are exposed to sustainability and renewable energy concepts and skills. The impacts of these associated exposures on their environmental awareness is then assessed.

In the first year of the project, the team, led by AU Geosciences graduate student Hang Song, developed and deployed surveys to evaluate student’s environmental awareness, willingness, and preparedness to pursue careers in renewable energy industries. Associated project engineering faculty at AU and TU then developed course activities for students to increase exposure and awareness to sustainability and renewable energy concepts and careers. One such course activity featured new hands-on renewable energy laboratories where students work first hand with solar panels and wind turbines to examine factors which increase energy productivity. A favorite among students was a virtual career panel featuring renewable energy professionals who provided insight into careers in the field and gave students opportunities to ask questions.

The impact of new course activities on student awareness, willingness, and preparedness for careers in renewable energy industries is assessed by deploying student surveys at the start and end of each semester. Observations from survey results will consider any changes in student awareness, willingness, and preparedness for such careers and aim to suggest the course activities that have the most significant impact.

Key to the success of the project is aligning desired student competencies and skills to those required of professionals working in renewable energy industries. This is also a chance for working professionals to participate in the project actively! We invite you to share with us what skills and competencies you use in your position by taking this survey. Please also feel free to share with others working in the renewable energy industry.

Dr. Lauren E. Beckingham is an Assistant Professor for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.


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