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Cantwell Congratulates Gonzaga University for Educating Energy Workforce of the Future

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Location: Spokane, WA


Cantwell Congratulates Gonzaga University for Educating Energy Workforce of the Future
One-of-a-Kind Engineering Program Celebrates First Anniversary

Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA-05) to congratulate Gonzaga University on the first anniversary of the school's Electric Utility Transmission and Distribution (T&D) Line Engineering Program. Cantwell, along with her colleagues, obtained more than $2.3 million in federal funds over three years to help defray costs for the facility. These federal funds received an 80 percent match from a variety of non-government sources including Gonzaga University, private corporations, individual investors, and foundations to meet the $11.7 million cost of establishing the T&D engineering program.

The online T&D Certificate Program is offered by Gonzaga's School of Engineering and Applied Science and consists of five 3-credit courses developed through partnership with practicing utility engineers. The program, which experts say is the most comprehensive in the nation, helps fulfill a looming shortage of trained, skilled workers to meet the needs of the growing transmission and distribution industry.

"We need to make sure our nation is training the next generation of utility engineers if we are going to meet future electricity demand growth and replace the upcoming wave of retirees. I commend Gonzaga for stepping up to prepare and train utility line transmission and distribution engineers to meet the nation's future energy infrastructure needs," said Cantwell. "Gonzaga is at the forefront of educating the skilled workforce our nation needs to build and maintain transmission lines, substations, and make our electricity grid smarter and more efficient. This critical workforce section could 1,000 jobs in Washington state."

In April 2003, in conjunction with a speech before the Spokane/TriCities Chamber of Commerce Energy Summit, Senator Cantwell issued a report entitled "Meeting the National Demand for a Skilled Energy Workforce: A Growth Opportunity for Eastern and Central Washington." The report documented the opportunity for Washington state to play a critical role in meeting the growing national demand for skilled workforce in energy related fields. Specifically the report found that more than half the nation's science and engineering workforce will reach retirement age in the next 20 years, but only about 500 students per year receive undergraduate degrees in power engineering, while fewer than 200 receive master's degrees, and 20 earn doctorates. It also concluded that Washington state has the beginnings of a competitive advantage in the area of energy technology due to both our existing industry and the fact that our universities are leaders in the field of power systems engineering. After the report was released, Gonzaga approached the Washington Congressional delegation indicating their desire to develop a curriculum and training program to fill this workforce gap.

"It is estimated that, by its fifth year of operation, this program will produce 75 transmission engineers annually. Not only is this important from an infrastructure standpoint, but from a national security one as well. Because of the great partnerships Gonzaga has made with government agencies and local companies like Avista Utilities, Itron, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, this program became a reality. I congratulate them on their first anniversary and look forward to many more years of success," Cantwell continued.

Cantwell also inserted language into the 2005 Energy Bill that required the Secretaries of Labor and Energy to monitor current and future shortages of electric power and transmission engineers and authorized the Energy Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, to provide workforce training grants, including for distance learning programs, to address current and predicted workforce shortages.


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