I recently told a friend that I was running a training program for offshore wind. He said wryly, “I’m a big fan.” His joking aside, many people on Martha’s Vineyard and the south coast of Massachusetts are fans of renewable energy—and thankfully their support for the new industry of offshore wind will lead to hundreds of new jobs and an ecologically sound method for capturing and generating energy. This industry—nascent in the US, though mature in Europe–will be a game-changer for residents of Martha’s Vineyard, which is where the nonprofit ACE MV (Adult and Continuing Education of Martha’s Vineyard) is introducing training and certification opportunities for offshore wind jobs that haven’t existed here before.
This year, ACE MV launched its first Offshore Wind Technician Certificate in partnership with Bristol Community College and with funding from MassCEC. We welcomed 18 students into Cohort 1, a group of Island residents eager to take Electrical Machinery and possibly even commit to earning an entire certificate that would prepare them for employment with offshore wind turbines. These students’ backgrounds represented a wide swath of Vineyard skills: one student had been a private chef and left his culinary career to pursue something new and challenging; another student is running for Selectperson in her town; one is a retired fisherman; and several are parents of young children. Three are women.
The excitement about a new career option is palpable on the Vineyard; typically, our region enjoys few year-round jobs and most people must travel or even move away to obtain needed credentials. The seasonal economy affects how people choose careers, where they live, and whether an Island life is even possible, though their families may have lived here for generations. The new partnership with Bristol Community College, offering courses on Martha’s Vineyard, and the glimpse of an eco-friendly and long-term career path gives hope to many families here; and it goes without saying that an Island community such as ours has deep marine connections. To complement the Offshore Wind Technician Certificate, ACE MV is also pursuing adding a Marine Science certificate to our offerings, supporting our long history of fishing, ecology, oceanography, and conservation.
Personally, I am excited to see offshore wind develop as an energy source. It’s far better than mountain-top removal, which is a horrible practice that I witnessed in West Virginia when I worked for an environmental advocacy nonprofit. As far as the eye could see, once pristine forests were completely destroyed with rivers, streams, wildlife, and entire ecosystems eradicated permanently. Renewable energy offers what is called a “cleaner” source of electricity, but really it is an ethical choice, a sustainable choice, and a responsible course of action for Massachusetts. ACE MV and Martha’s Vineyard look forward to partnering with supporters of offshore wind because we hold three priorities dear: affordable and accessible training and education; quality careers; and the provision of energy that is sustainable, reliable, and renewable.