NJ Wind Turbine Tech Training Challenge: EDA to award $1M grant to community college with best proposal

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority will award a grant of up to $1 million to the state community college that collaborates with union trade organizations and industry partners to establish an offshore wind turbine technician training program.

The program, called the NJ Wind Turbine Tech Training Challenge, was created as an incentive to get more members of the next-generation workers interested in what the state feels will be a huge industry.

The training program must result in an industry-recognized, credit-bearing certificate program that is part of a pathway to an associate degree or higher, EDA officials said. The program itself was approved the EDA board earlier this month.

The EDA will be hosting an informational webinar on the challenge on June 2. Click here to register.

EDA CEO Tim Sullivan said the program is intended to help the state’s community colleges — and the next generation of workers — get the most out of the growing offshore wind industry in the state.

“Offshore wind is a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity that will bring billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to New Jersey,” Sullivan said. “It is crucial that we take steps now to prepare to meet the industry’s workforce needs and to ensure equitable access to these opportunities for all New Jerseyans.

“The Wind Turbine Tech Training Challenge leverages our top-notch community colleges and robust network of labor unions and trades training programs to achieve both of these goals in a way that meets the industry’s needs.”

Sullivan said the challenge will address this gap in New Jersey’s offshore wind ecosystem by providing an up to $1 million grant to a New Jersey community college to collaborate with labor organizations and industry stakeholders to design and implement a curriculum that meets industry standards for wind turbine technician training.

Sullivan said the EDA chose to focus on community colleges because these institutions are positioned to provide a holistic program with a stackable credential such as an associate degree, serve a diverse population, offer a wide range of support services and engage industry and labor partners as needed. Working with community colleges also increases accessibility to the programs created using challenge funding by creating the opportunity for participating students to benefit from the governor’s free community college program, he said.

Applicants for the NJ Wind Turbine Tech Training Challenge must submit a plan to develop and operate an industry-recognized offshore wind turbine technician training program that includes a credit-bearing certificate that is part of a pathway to an associate degree or higher; incorporates collaborations with labor unions and industry stakeholders; targets and supports a diverse and inclusive pool of training participants; and creates clear and inclusive career pathways for students to enter and grow in the offshore wind industry. Applicants must plan to launch the program described in the application by the first quarter of 2023.

Sullivan said the grant program is part of the Murphy administration’s whole of government approach to achieving Gov. Phil Murphy’s goal of generating 7.5 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2035 and positioning New Jersey as a hub for the American offshore wind industry. Other initiatives include the construction of the New Jersey Wind Port, a state-of-the-art monopile manufacturing facility at the Port of Paulsboro and the Offshore Wind Safety Training Challenge, a $3 million grant program to establish an industry-recognized Global Wind Organization safety training program and facility in New Jersey.

Taken together, Sullivan hopes these efforts will ensure New Jersey has the infrastructure, supply chain and workforce needed to support offshore wind projects on the East Coast.

Joseph Fiordaliso, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, said building a next-generation workforce is key.

“As New Jersey transitions to 100% clean energy through initiatives like offshore wind, it is imperative that we cultivate a workforce prepared to meet the emerging opportunities building and operating clean energy infrastructure offers,” he said. “This grant opportunity demonstrates the state’s commitment to ensuring that the workforce of tomorrow has a place in our innovation economy and is grown right here in one of New Jersey’s community colleges.”

Department of Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo agreed.

“A critical step toward ensuring the state’s future success in offshore wind is strengthening our investment in workforce training and education today,” he said. “Offshore wind will create thousands of good-paying, permanent jobs. The state’s community colleges are well-positioned to equip our workforce with the skills and knowledge they need to fill these family sustaining positions.”

“Through this challenge, we are helping to ensure that New Jersey’s talent pipeline remains strong and our economic rebound prioritizes workforce opportunities for students to hone their skills and obtain necessary credentials,” said Secretary of Higher Education Brian Bridges. “The program created as a result of this challenge will fuel a diverse and inclusive pipeline of talented workers and propel the state’s rapidly-growing clean energy sector to the forefront of the global stage.”