As efficiency emerges as the next frontier of energy transformation, the need for a well-trained, specialized labor force to sustain and encourage industry growth becomes a priority.

The Obama administration, one of the biggest proponents of energy efficiency, recognizes this dynamic and has invested heavily in the proper grooming of future practitioners. Specifically, the Department of Energy (DOE) has announced a program that will provide more than $30 million for specialized university training. The funding will be available to 24 universities in 23 states across the country. Each school will receive $200,000 to $300,000 per year for up to 5 years.

The program targets undergraduate and graduate engineering students, preparing them to enter the work force with the tools to compete in the efficiency sector and to help businesses embrace energy-efficiency practices.

With an emphasis on the industrial and manufacturing sectors, students will receive practical training on core energy management concepts. Their curriculum will cover several categories, including industrial processes, energy assessment procedures and energy management principles.

Training will be provided through the DOE’s Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) program, which is dedicated to enabling engineering students to conduct energy assessments in a broad range of manufacturing facilities. Not only will the program be grooming a future generation of efficiency experts, but local businesses will also benefit. Through the university-based IACs, students will also work directly with local small- and medium-sized industrial and manufacturing facilities in the surrounding communities. IACs provide energy, waste and productivity assessments at no charge to small- and mid-sized manufacturers while providing engineering students with hands-on experience.

Each IAC will be expected to train at least 10 to 15 students per year, conduct approximately 20 energy assessments annually, and perform extensive follow-up reporting, tracking, implementation and management-improvement activities.