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Free training to help prepare workers for Green jobs

A new local initiative is reaching out to offer free training for "green" construction jobs, a rapidly growing niche that includes installing solar panels and building wind turbines.

Funded by a state grant, Workforce Development, Inc. is offering a monthly Pre-employment Trades Academy course, starting on Aug. 15.

The 20-hour classes are being offered at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Construction trade training center near the Rochester International Airport.

Meeting on Monday and Wednesday nights for two weeks, the sessions will focus on safety and basic construction behavior, including climbing safety. Once the participants complete the National Joint Apprenticeship Training curriculum, they will earn a Occupational Safety and Health Administration certification.

This course will give participants an edge in seeking jobs like installing solar energy systems, maintaining wind turbines and other green industry positions, says Becky Thofson of Workforce Development.

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Green construction is a rapidly growing employment niche and offers good salaries, Thofson said.

The average starting salary for a solar system installer is $37,700. A wind turbine technician is listed as earning an national average of $48,300.

"Working with the construction trade groups on this has been a good partnership," she said.

Each free class can accept up to 20 people and Workforce Development will offer them each month through January.

The grant funding this program will also fuel a series of workshops for local electricians about business opportunities in the solar power industry.

It will also allow Riverland Community College to offer a round of its solar installer class, so working electricians can take it.

An earlier round of green jobs funding was originally used to create the course in 2010, but it was then aimed at unemployed electricians.

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