Staff photo by Britney Lillya
OLDMANS TWP. — Another Salem County partnership made its mark Friday as Salem Community College joined forces with Energy Freedom Pioneers to dedicate the Sustainable Energy Center here, which now houses SCC’s Sustainable Energy Technology program.
The SET program was created, along with the Nuclear Energy Technology program, through a $1.7 million community-based job training grant the college received in January 2009.
SCC students and officials, officials from Energy Freedom Pioneers, and several township, county and state representatives came out to take part in the dedication of the building, which includes a 24-student classroom, lab space, meeting rooms, and offices.
Prior to housing the SET program, the Pedricktown building on Route 130, which was used to house officers from the U.S. Army, was vacant for 12 years.
Officials said the decision to locate the SET classroom at the Energy Freedom Pioneers Eco-Industrial Park allows students to interact with many state-of-the-art technologies that will be manufactured or utilized at the site including biofuels, solar, wind, anaerobic digestion and nutrient management.
School officials said the building will be open for class next week.
Student Bill Hanby, of Pennsville Township, believes the new building and the partnership with Energy Freedom Pioneers will help prepare students for the real world.
“The new building and working with the Energy Freedom Pioneers offers us hands-on training opposed to textbook training,” said Hanby.
During the dedication ceremony, SCC President Dr. Peter B. Contini compared the college’s relationship with Energy Freedom Pioneers to the school’s long-standing bond with PSEG Nuclear. The utility and the college have partnered to create a program where students prepare for entry into jobs in the nuclear power industry.
“We look at the $1.7 million as a seed for the future,” said Contini.
Provost Joan Baillie said when SCC was approached by Brian Blair, president of Energy Freedom Pioneers, more than three years ago, she was excited to work with Blair, who she referred to as a “man of vision,” and make his vision come to life.
“He saw into the future and saw where this country needed to go,” said Baillie.
She added that she believes the job of community colleges is to provide students with accessible education.
“We have to prepare students not just for jobs that exist today. We also have to prepare them for jobs that will exist in the future,” she said.
After obtaining their associate degrees from the program, students will be prepared for entry-level positions in various energy fields such as solar and wind.
SET student James Justis, who received a full scholarship for the program, said he decided to enter the program so he could have training to work in the energy field.
“I have always been interested in recycling and things like that,” said Justis. “I (joined the program) because I wanted to get into a bigger aspect of conservation.”
Blair said he is proud to have the program launched in Salem County.
“The people in this county put things together and they don’t stop (until the project is complete),” said Blair.
U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd Dist., said he was happy to take part in Friday’s dedication of the Sustainable Energy Center.
“This is exciting because we all know from what we see today, the best days are yet to come,” he said.
© 2009 Today's Sunbeam. Used with permission.