By Debra Gruszecki
College of the Desert has announced it will team up with First Solar to support local training for green jobs in the utility-scale solar projects that are expected to come to Riverside County.
First Solar, a manufacturer of photovoltaic solar panels, is donating solar equipment, hands-on training and curriculum development for COD's Desert Region Renewable Energy Training Program at the Desert Energy Enterprise Center in Palm Springs.
The center opened at 3301 Micro Place in January. Since its debut, it has trained workers for utility-scale solar energy plant construction in anticipation of several proposed solar projects in the desert just east of the Coachella Valley.
The COD program is reaching out to new workforce entrants, the unemployed and underemployed workers for the program.
“As the region's utility-scale solar energy industry grows, generation companies and their contractors, as well as unions, will be searching for skilled workers who understand solar installation and maintenance requirements,” said Larry McLaughlin, director of the center at COD.
Kim Oster, director of business development for First Solar, said this collaboration is a solid example of the firm's commitment on education and the local workforce.
“It will provide a much-needed boost to the local economy,” Oster said, noting that the proposed Desert Sunlight solar energy project near Desert Center has the potential to create about 430 construction jobs, along with 15 ongoing maintenance and operations jobs.
The collaborative effort will be celebrated at 3 p.m. Wednesday with students, college staff, members of First Solar and local dignitaries.
Speakers include Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit, Vice Chairman of the Riverside County workforce investment board executive committee Lee Haven;, and COD officials.