A group of students at Hardin County Schools’ Early College and Career Center helped the Elizabethtown Police Department solve a case last year.
The “crime”? Wasting energy.
Students taking courses in the energy management career pathway inspected the police department building to identify energy waste and ways to improve energy use.
“There were quite a bit of ways they were losing (energy),” said Quinton Pickering, a senior at Central Hardin High School who is taking energy management courses at the Early College and Career Center.
Their teacher, Joe Stuecker, said he combed the building before his students did to make notes on what they should find in the assignment. “They blew my list out of the water,” he said.
Hardin County Early College and Career Center students, l-r, Bryce Mullins
and Tim VanHuss work on their plan for an energy audit of their building.
The Energy Management career pathway is a subset within the Engineering and Technology program in Kentucky Career and Technical Education.
The state education department has classified energy management as an “emerging pathway,” and is encouraging schools to look at offering these classes, said Marissa Hancock, academic program manager in KDE’s Office of Career and Technical Education.
“It’s identified as a need, an industry sector that is in need of a career pathway and training in that,” she said.
Michelle Nichols, principal of Scott County Schools’ Elkhorn Crossing career and tech school, noted, “Engineering within itself has so many opportunities for our students, but when you look at the financial impact of energy conservation on business and industry, I think that’s where you’re going to see a lot of potential for jobs.”
Hancock said KDE is working on professional development and curriculum materials to support the energy management career pathway. The agency has been offering energy technology grants to schools to launch these programs.
Curriculum sources vary
While the Hardin County Career and Tech Center follows a classic pathway with its energy management coursework, now in its second year, Hancock said schools can work with curriculum partners such as Project Lead the Way to devise their energy management programs.
Nichols said energy components are embedded throughout the Scott County Project Lead the Way engineering program from the sixth grade on.
“It’s a natural fit with our Project Lead the Way programs,” said Clay Goode, the district’s director of secondary education. Three of the system’s schools received a KDE energy technology grant, including Elkhorn Crossing.
In Kenton County Schools, Scott High School is the base for an energy management program that uses curriculum designed by the Southern Regional Education Board. The Green Engineering Academy at Scott High offers classes in clean energy systems, clean energy applications and clean energy strategies, culminating in an internship.
The SREB hooks up the Kenton County program with mentors in the field with whom students can write or phone, and whom teachers can consult via Skype, said English teacher Casey Wolfe, who, along with a math and energy teacher, staff the Green Engineering Academy.
Hardin County’s Stuecker, who came to the Early College and Career Center from the private sector, said it’s a misconception that the energy management classes there focus solely on solar or wind power. Students begin by analyzing energy efficiency and then move to the power generation aspect, he explained.
Scott High School green energy teacher Ryan Wright said the number of students in his program is growing and he tries to communicate the importance of the field to them.
“There’s going to be a lot more work in switching to these sustainable forms of energy and getting a little bit away from coal and gasoline and all these nonsustainable, nonrenewable sources,” he said. “We try to tell these kids, ‘Hey, industry is heading this way – if you go to any career website you’ll see where demand for these jobs is very, very high and is expected to continue to grow.’”
Hardin County school board Chairman Charlie Wise said not only will the program in his district lead to “quality, high-paying jobs” for students, but area employers also will benefit. “They will soon begin to see graduates of this program come into their businesses and industries and make an immediate impact on their bottom line,” he said.
Besides dual credit, students in the Hardin County program can be eligible for Energy Industry Fundamentals Certification from the national Center for Workforce Development.
Stuecker said some of his 22 students are focused on the environment in an Earth-friendly sense and some are looking at it from the aspect of saving money through energy efficiencies. In any case, he added, what they are doing at his school will demonstrate to potential employers that they have had real-world experience through work like the energy audits.
Elkhorn Crossing’s Nichols said there is a broader message as well: “We basically feel like we need to teach students how to be responsible citizens, how to be responsible inhabitants of our world, to be mindful of how our actions impact the environment, and then from a business standpoint, teaching the students – especially those engineering students – how these decisions that they make can have a significant financial impact on business and industry.”
Hancock said she believes more and more students will become interested in energy management as a career pathway, but added that their school may be a factor in those leanings.
“I think a lot of that interest also has a lot to do with the individual school districts and their promotion of career readiness and their wanting to expand their options, making that part of the school culture that the academic and career preparation are parallel to each other,” she said.