First, I must correct that I am no longer the chair of the consortium, that baton has been passed to Rose Patzer. Rose serves as the Executive Director of the Minnesota State Energy Center of Excellence, housed at Minnesota West Community and Technical College.
The Minnesota Energy Consortium was started in 2005. Originally the meetings were a partnership between leading Minnesota utilities and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities coming together to address the anticipated workforce shortages in technical positions of the utilities, specifically power generation. This group has continued to meet since that time and works to address a variety of workforce issues. We have also grown to include several state government agencies engaged in our work — DEED, Dept of Commerce, Public Utilities Commission, etc.
On the college side, we have strived to develop programs that produce graduates with the needed skills to fill those technical positions. Programs have been established, redeveloped and expanded to address these needs in Instrumentation and Controls, Power Generation Operators, Solar Assessment, Installation and Operation, Wind Energy Technicians, Ethanol and Bio-Fuel Production, Building Efficiency Technology, Substation Operators, Powerline Techs, and Gas Technicians.
From the industry side, we hold two meetings annually to discuss the current state of the industry, share efforts being undertaken to address the issues, and to explore new and projected opportunities to continue that work. Further, both educators and industry partners have engaged with the Center for Energy Workforce Development, a national organization addressing similar challenges across the industry.