John Kelleher Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Montana is in a great position to capitalize on the growth of green industries, Barbara Stiffarm believes. "We have the sun, the wind, the rivers," she said. "And we have the workforce." Stiffarm, the acting executive director of Opportunity Link Inc., is an organizer of "Energizing Our Workforce," a workshop series that will be held Friday and Saturday at Stone Child College. She will also give a talk at the series. The program, she said, is one step in making area residents aware of the potential of green energies. The seminars will give people an idea of the kinds of careers that the emerging green industries can offer area people, she said, She envisions the development of renewable energy as a perfect storm that will make for a clean environment while reducing United States dependency on foreign oil and provide jobs for Montanans. Day Soriano, Opportunity Link's development director, said many young people are unaware of the potential of renewable industries. A survey conducted for Opportunity Link showed that people were interested in customer service work, machine shop employment and jobs in the health and education fields. "That is the kind of work that is here in Montana," she said. "It's the chicken and egg thing," she said. "Green businesses don't come here because there is not a trained workforce, and people don't look for these jobs Because the businesses aren't here." Many two-year associate's degree could help people find employment in this emerging field, she said. Once they start work in the field, people could specialize and obtain a more specific four-year degree, she said. Edward Stamper, Stone Child's director of research, said the programs should be of special interest to college students who are looking at careers in the alternative energy field. But anyone interested in alternative energies would find the sessions fascinating, he said. Stiffarm said people interested in green energies would find the sessions intriguing. "Farmers who are interested in biofuels or who want to build a solar panel on their homes would be welcome," she said. Pat Wise, an economic development specialist for Gov. Brian Schweitzer, will be the opening speaker. The second day of the sessions will involve a guided tour of the Judith Gap Wind Farm, operated by the Big Sandy-based WindPark Solutions America. Transportation will be provided, he said. The free workshops are paid for by a federal WIRED grant with help from the University of Montana College of Technology.