IBTI boosts biofuels training

By | March 17, 2008
A new biofuels training consortium aims to meet the demand for new "green collar" jobs, expected to reach more than 240,000 full-time positions by 2015. Two Iowa community colleges received a U.S. Department of Labor grant to conduct extensive industry research and visit production facilities to develop job guides and curriculums. The two colleges-Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa and Centerville, Iowa-formed the Iowa Biofuels Training International consortium, which was unveiled at the National Biodiesel Conference in Orlando, Fla., in early February.

IBTI Executive Director Joe Brehm explained that the program will coordinate training programs using resources from multiple partners. "For example, it is possible that no individual training partner currently offers all the necessary training for a laboratory technician," he said. "However, all the training resources for this position might currently be available from three different training partners." The IBTI would find the necessary training components and coordinate them. It would also develop regional training programs to reduce travel costs for participants. Training will be provided for plant operators, supervisors, and laboratory and maintenance technicians. As the biodiesel industry grows, new curriculums will be developed. The consortium's long-term goal is to provide additional resources, including textbooks, learning modules and online courses, according to Brehm.

The program aims to develop a training network, tapping into resources from community colleges, four-year academic institutions, and product and systems experts. Particular courses and programs will be certified and approved by the IBTI advisory board, which will consist of training partners, industry representatives, contracted trainers and other biofuel experts. The IBTI is recruiting training partners now. Industry representatives or product vendors will be recruited to become part of the IBTI network based on expertise and industry training needs.

Renewable Energy Group Inc. was tapped in the early stages of the IBTI's formation to help create training guides for biodiesel workers. "Working with the IBTI to develop biodiesel training curriculums aids the biodiesel industry in recruiting and retaining qualified candidates, reducing the amount of time it takes to get new employees up to speed and working to their full potential," said REG Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Stroburg. REG trained more than 100 employees to work in seven biodiesel production facilities in 2007.

People interested in becoming an IBTI advisor, expert trainer or developer of a certified curriculum can do so through the IBTI's Web site at www.biofuelstraining.org.

-Susanne Retka Schill
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