Program Retraining Workers for ‘Green’ Economy Graduates First 50 Students

9/7/11Follow @bvbigelow

As President Obama prepares to roll out a jobs program in a nationwide address tomorrow, the first 50 people to enroll in a six-month program to retrain workers for jobs in biofuels, sustainable biotechnology, and other cleantech industries are graduating today.

The students began their technical training earlier this year with classes at UC San Diego Extension and Mira Costa College under a two-year, $4-million grant from the California Department of Labor.

“These are the technician positions that are required in the research and development stage, but will also be needed [for] production,” says Stephen Mayfield, a professor of biology at UC San Diego and director of the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology, or SD-CAB. “We also have a program with Mira Costa [community college] which is geared more towards straight production, so those are the real green-collar jobs.”

Mayfield, who also is a co-founder and chairman of the scientific advisory board at the San Diego algal biofuels startup Sapphire Energy, says the emerging green sector will need both technicians and production employees. Ultimately there will be more jobs on the production side as new commercial facilities get built.

“The program is funded by the state as a training development project, meaning the state funded us to develop the certificate program.” Mayfield says. “We get two years for that, and during that phase there is no cost to the students. After that time the program will be run on a tuition basis, [which will cost about] $5,000 per student for the six-month program, and [after] that it should be self-sustaining.”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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