The inaugural class of the NII Explore Energy Co-op. Photo from NII The inaugural class of the NII Explore Energy Co-op. Photo from NII

Green energy co-op spotlights in-demand careers

The Nuclear Innovation Institute's (NII) Explore Energy Co-op pilot program represents a homegrown solution to changing labour force needs in Bruce County.

Recently, 25 students from Kincardine District Senior School (KDSS) completed the specialized 17-week education program featuring careers in demand in the green energy sector like construction, welding, emergency management, robotics and scaffolding.

NII Explore Program Design and Delivery Specialist Sarah Spragg said the Co-op offered participants insight into nearly 30 green energy careers.

"The skilled trades are especially important. And a lot of our instructors with welding and scaffolding spoke to the students a lot about how, like, this is a very important trade, and it's in demand," she explained. "And some of these students had no idea like what there was out there. And so this program gave them the opportunity to understand all of the opportunities."

Spragg said participants shared their experiences hands-on learning, and networking opportunities.

"With the industry partners that we worked with, and the skills that they worked on. And it was an incredibly successful event," she added. "And then the actual like Co-op, as well. So we had, I believe, ten students who who were offered intern opportunities and summer job opportunities beyond this Co-op."

Next year, the Co-op will offer more opportunities, and expand to include students from Saugeen District Senior School (SDSS).

"We're doubling. So we're going to be doing 25 with KDSS and some with SDSS," she pointed out. "And then we're also going to be doing another 25 in the winter term, so 25 in the fall, and 25 in the winter."

Spragg said they want to encourage students to return to the region to work.

"Even if they go off to school in the city, that they come back because they know that there are jobs and that they aren't limited," she continued. "They can come back and they can live where they grew up. They can make a good wage. They can have a job that they enjoy and they have a passion for."

The program will be offered at at the NII Advance Technology Campus near Tiverton.

“With the clean energy sector’s jobs growing faster than the national average over the next decade, the skills these students have explored during the program are in demand for companies throughout our region,” said NII Explore President Phillip Craig.

Delilah, for example, is a grade 11 student interested in the trades but wasn’t sure if it was the right path for her. After gaining hands-on experience with both MIG and stick welding from inspiring women instructor role models, Delilah discovered her passion for welding and confirmed her desire to pursue it as a career.

“This week really solidified that this is what I want to do—I got a lot of experience,” said Delilah after the welding sessions.

Students tried welding as part of their Energy Co-op. Photo from NIIStudents tried welding as part of their Energy Co-op. Photo from NII

“We are thrilled to have been able to offer this fantastic career pathway opportunity to our first group of students enrolled in the new Energy Specialist High Skills Major program recently added at Kincardine District Senior School,” said Keith Lefebvre, Superintendent of Education for Bluewater District School Board.

He added: “Students have expressed their excitement about learning of the many opportunities in the energy field. Our thanks to our partners at NII Explore, UBC Local 2222, and all the local employers whose generous commitment to this initiative has helped to pave the way for a broad range of rewarding jobs and careers for our students in the energy and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.”

The program is in partnership with KDSS and the Bluewater District School Board.

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