By GRACE WYLER
The green-energy industry is the coal and steel of the future, and the region’s work force must adapt to advanced energy technologies to reap the benefits of new green manufacturing and construction jobs, government officials and labor leaders said Monday.
“The reindustrializated America will hum as it did in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. It will just have a different look to it,” Ohio AFL-CIO President Joe Rugola said. “It will be cleaner and greener, it will be more focused on advanced technology.”
A news conference at Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 396 celebrated the new partnership between Local 396 and Eastern Gateway Community College and a recent agreement between the union and the Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority.
The joint ventures will promote green-job creation and training, said Butch Taylor, business manager for Local 396.
U.S. Reps. Charlie Wilson of St. Clairsville, D-6th, and Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, were on hand for the event.
Wilson recently secured a $1.5 million federal- training grant for welding and green-energy programs.
“Training will make the transition [to green technology] seamless,” Wilson said. “We need to focus on all aspects of advanced energy — from construction to implementation. This partnership is a first step.”
Over the next two years, more than 1,000 construction and maintenance workers will be needed for energy and advanced- energy projects in the region, Taylor said.
Through its partnership with EGCC, the union will supplement its apprenticeship program with an associate degree of technical studies in an energy- related field. The degree program will allow the union’s new workers to meet the increased technology requirements of green-energy projects, Taylor said.
The union will also partner with YMHA on a joint venture to rehabilitate the Brier Hill public-housing family development into an energy-efficient, green community.
YMHA received a $9.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the project.
The renovations and landscaping work will be done with the help of the Western Reserve Building Trades, including Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 396 over the coming months, said YMHA regional director Clifford Scott.
YMHA hopes the project will help the housing organization adapt to the future of green-energy technology, Scott said.
“For a long time, we haven’t been in the game,” Scott said. “We have been the housing of last resort, and we are trying to move away from that.”
These types of collaborative efforts are essential to bringing the region forward to meet the need of the growing green-energy industry in Ohio, said Sean Logan, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
“What is about to happen is almost a tsunami in Ohio,” Logan said. “The key to our readiness is for you to focus your strengths cooperatively.”