Last month, I went to local energy storage company FastCAP Systems' Research and Development Lab in Boston's Innovation District to talk with a group of about 30 Boston Public Schools students about the clean energy industry. The high school students were the first in a series of tours called the “Clean Tech Career Challenge" organized by FastCAP, solar inverter manufacturer Satcon, and the clean energy incubator Greentown Labs.
The goal of the tour was to get young people excited about studying technology-related disciplines by giving them an inside look at what it is like to work at a clean tech company. Governor Deval Patrick joined students on a similar event on February 3 and spoke with them about the importance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. As part of the Administration’s efforts to close the achievement gap, Governor Patrick made a stop at the most recent career day to talk with students and congratulate the companies for their effort to teach students about career opportunities in clean energy.
FastCAP’s CEO, Dr. Riccardo Signorelli, sees this as imperative to sustaining the quick paced growth the industry has experienced in the last few years, and keeping cutting-edge clean technology jobs not only in the U.S., but in Massachusetts specifically.
“We’ve got to make sure that there is an energetic, qualified and high-tech workforce available locally to fill the clean technology jobs that we are busy creating here,”said Signorelli.
From building prototypes in the machine shop, to computer modeling and performing experiments in the chemistry lab, the students learned that they could do many types of jobs at a clean technology company. The biggest hit of the tour at FastCAP was a chemical engineer named Kavya, who explained the many applications and benefits of nanotechnology, and showed the students equipment she uses to grow and analyze tiny nanoparticles in the lab. So tiny, she said “that one nanotube is equal in size to 1/10,000th of the width of a single human hair.”
The engineers, technicians, scientists, entrepreneurs and managers the students met during the trip illustrated the broad spectrum of jobs available in the clean energy sector - from advanced manufacturing jobs to business administration and development - from engineering and product design to entrepreneurial ventures.
The clean energy sector, which currently stands at 64,000 jobs at almost 5,000 companies in Massachusetts, grew at 6.7 percent from July 2010 to July 2012, according to MassCEC’s 2011 Massachusetts Clean Energy Industry Report. The report also found that Massachusetts' competes with other states for jobs and that even though Massachusetts’ world-class colleges and universities produce some of the best skilled workers, companies still need more well-trained workers.
It was clear from this report that in order for Massachusetts to stay competitive, we must do more to increase the supply of skilled workers. Part of our mission at MassCEC is to help create a workforce that is trained with the right skills that industry needs. That's why I was excited for the opportunity to meet and talk with high school students and the host companies on this tour. Encouraging our youth to study and obtain critical skills in STEM will not only give them a head start to landing a rewarding career in a growing industry, but it will help keep the burgeoning Massachusetts clean energy sector growing strong.
I hope to see more schools and companies working together to expose students at an early age to the exciting clean energy industry opportunities here in Massachusetts.