CAC offering renewable energy programs through CBJT Grant

By Guy Harrison, Media & Marketing Specialist

CASA GRANDE, Ariz. - With the costs of fuel and energy rising, the public at large continues to clamor for new ways to produce these resources.

For its part, Central Arizona College is helping to supply local communities with an influx of knowledgeable renewable energy gurus thanks to its renewable energy program.

The program is being coordinated by Peter Combs and is made possible by the U.S. Department of Labor's Community-Based Job Training (CBJT) Alternative Energy Grant.

"This program is one of the most diverse in our college's history," Dr. Georgia White, dean of professional and technical education, said.

The renewable energy program at CAC offers two certificates, one in solar energy and the other a biofuel technician track in addition to an associate degree.

The solar energy certificate takes nine classes and an internship to complete. The curriculum immerses students in classes such as Residential & Commercial Wiring while the internship takes students to partners within Pinal County who search for grant recipients and low-income housing eligible participants for installation.

"We have had four different groups from the reservations to low-income housing in Eloy that have asked us to bring our students to do installations for them," Combs said.

The 12-credit biofuel technician certificate includes courses such as Ethanol Process Fundamentals and Distillation & Evaporation Theory.

In the latter class, students "are going to be making ethanol for your gas tank, not your shot glass," Combs quipped.

The renewable energy technician associate degree, which is transferrable to all three of Arizona's state universities, immerses students in course offerings such as Pollution Controls and Fluid Power.

"If you look at the classes, this is a very intensive program," Combs declares.

Making the degree program all the more intensive is its emphasis on interdisciplinary and outreach learning approaches.

One example is a collaboration with Hispanic-Serving Institutions Assisting Communities (HSIAC) Green Construction, CBJT 3-Solar Installation, and CAC's Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to develop a Solar Entrepreneur - entrepreneurial coursework based on the four-module Kauffman Model - aimed at preparing students to operate their own solar installation business.

Based on the program's breadth and depth as well as the community's need to develop and proliferate renewable energy, it's no surprise that CAC's program is garnering significant interest from the Pinal County community, including those who live quite a distance from CAC's Casa Grande Center where the program is housed.

Forty percent of those who have expressed interest in the program come from the Apache Junction area. While this might seem problematic due to the program's location, the CBJT grant, according to Combs, allows for students' transportation, if necessary. With that said, students should not let distance deter them from an up and coming program that may prove integral to the community in the future.

"It's exciting. There's a lot of interest," Combs said.
"Right now, we're a leader in the state and in the Southwestern United States."

The primary purpose of the CBJT grants is to build the capacity of community colleges to train workers to develop the skills required to succeed in high growth/high demand industries.

These grants are used to increase the capacity of community colleges to provide training in a local high-growth, high-demand industry through activities such as the development of training curricula with local industry, hiring qualified faculty, arranging on-the-job experiences with industry, and using up-to-date equipment; and train new and experienced workers in identified high growth, high demand industries, with the aim of employing and/or increasing the retention and earnings of trained workers, while meeting the skill needs of businesses within targeted industries.

To find out more about CAC's renewable energy technology program, please contact Peter Combs at or by phone at 520-494-6624.

The Renewable Energy Program is 100 percent funded by a federal grant awarded under the Community Based Job Training Grants, as implemented by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration.

It is against the law for this recipient of Federal financial assistance to discriminate on the following bases: against any individual in the United States, on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, political affiliation or belief; and against any beneficiary of programs financially assisted under Title I of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA), on the basis of the beneficiary's citizenship/status as a lawfully admitted immigrant authorized to work in the United States, or his or her participation in any WIA Title I-financially assisted program or activity. The recipient must not discriminate in any of the following areas: deciding who will be admitted, or have access, to any WIA Title I-financially assisted program or activity; providing opportunities in, or treating any person with regard to, such a program or activity; or making employment decisions in the administration of, or in connection with, such a program or activity.

This program is an equal opportunity employer/program and auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities

Central Arizona College - District Office 8470 N. Overfield Road, Coolidge, AZ 85128 Phone: 800-237-9814