NEW BEDFORD — Today, Lieutenant Governor Karen Polito, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides, and Massachusetts Clean Energy Center Interim CEO Jennifer Daloisio visited Greater New Bedford Vocational-Technical High School to meet with students in the Marine Technology, Computer Graphics, and Engineering programs, highlight potential career pathways in the emerging offshore wind industry, and participate in a demonstration of a new virtual reality offshore wind training program supported by the Baker-Polito Administration. The event was held as part of the Administration’s celebration of Massachusetts STEM Week.
“Massachusetts continues to lead the way in developing new technologies and programs to prepare the workforce to serve the emerging offshore wind industry in the Commonwealth,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our plan to invest $750 million in a clean energy investment fund, along with these vital workforce training programs, will help unlock significant economic opportunities associated with offshore wind development and ensure that everyone in the Commonwealth can benefit from the jobs that will be created now and in the future.”
“Offshore wind presents a tremendous opportunity for students across the Commonwealth to see themselves in STEM,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “The cutting-edge virtual reality training program supported by our Administration is an engaging way to get young people across the Commonwealth interested in a career in offshore wind, while helping to advance our goal of building a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workforce.”
The virtual reality training program is developed by VinciVR Inc., a startup headquartered in Boston. In 2020, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center awarded VinciVR a $124,670 grant to develop two offshore wind training modules for Basic Technical Training-Installation and Slinger Signaler using virtual reality simulations, in partnership with offshore wind turbine manufacturer Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, with the intent to have the training modules Global Wind Organisation-certified.
“By fostering partnerships with young, innovative startup companies like VinciVR and established offshore wind industry leaders, the Baker-Polito Administration is able to support new approaches to workforce development that expand access to opportunity for young people across the Commonwealth,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “Offshore wind offers students across the Commonwealth – especially students in our Vocational-Technical schools – exciting new opportunities and career pathways, and new tools like virtual reality make critical training programs more engaging and accessible for the next generation of clean energy workers.”
VinciVR’s newest program is specifically designed to introduce students and young people to offshore wind and the potential job opportunities that will be created by the development of this clean energy resource in Massachusetts. this rapidly growing field of employment. Additionally, MassCEC connected the company with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW 223) in Taunton, where electrical apprentices have beta-tested Vinci’s virtual training modules. So far, the apprentices have been the most successful participants in Vinci’s VR training, with a 100% success rate, demonstrating talent and expertise of the Commonwealth’s emerging, skilled workforce and its ability to meet the needs of the offshore wind industry.
“There is no better example of the important role of STEM education than a virtual reality program to train workers to work on the next generation of clean energy technology,” said Education Secretary James Peyser. “Companies like Vinci working in partnership with schools like Greater New Bedford Vocational-Technical and our tremendous universities and community colleges will ensure that Massachusetts students are the best educated, best trained and best prepared for the clean energy jobs of the future.”
“Achieving our ambitious climate goals of net zero by 2050 will require significant investments in workforce training,” said MassCEC Interim CEO Jennifer Daloisio. “Innovative solutions like VinciVR’s virtual reality simulation training are an excellent example of how we can use technology to reduce costs and increase access to training opportunities, building a diverse and well-trained workforce that will power the clean energy economy in Massachusetts.”
“Cultivating a competitive workforce has long been at the center of our work to make New Bedford a leader in offshore wind,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell. “We are grateful for the support of the Baker-Polito Administration of programs at Voc-Tech and other educational institutions in Greater New Bedford that help to open the doors of opportunity for our region’s residents in this arriving industry.”
“Cutting-edge technology can break open pathways for students to explore and engage with emerging new industries such as offshore wind,” said State Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford). “As an alum, I am excited to see our students gain access to this world-class resource. The quality of our vocational technical school is second to none, but it is urgent that the school open up many more slots so that our young people are not sitting idle on waiting lists while employers are in desperate need of workers.”
"VinciVR is a fantastic example of local, state-of-the-art innovation making the Commonwealth's offshore wind workforce training technologically advanced, efficient, and equitable," said State Representative Jeffrey N. Roy, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy. "From personal experience with using VinciVR's training technology, I know that MassCEC's grant is well-invested and will have a far-reaching impact in the offshore wind industry. The VinciVR training will allow many more workers to be trained in a safe environment and will greatly enhance our workforce."
"Offshore wind represents a unique, generational opportunity for New Bedford to lead the development of this new industry - but to capitalize on its full potential, we need a trained and skilled workforce to match,” said State Representative Antonio Cabral (D-New Bedford). “I thank MassCEC for recognizing the value and supporting this program at Greater New Bedford Voc-Tech High School."
“Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor Polito have been very supportive of the advancement of off-shore wind jobs in Southeastern Massachusetts,” said State Representative Paul Schmid (D-Westport). “This innovative program is their latest achievement, and I am thrilled the students of New Bedford and Southeastern Massachusetts will be among the first to experience and benefit from it.”
"State funding for STEM education and training is a direct investment in jobs and will remain a priority as the energy sector and other innovative businesses continue to grow here on the South Coast," said Rep. Bill Straus (D-Mattapoisett).
“We are about to embark upon the greatest change in energy production since the discovery of oil,” said State Representative Christopher Markey (D-Dartmouth). “These investments in human capital by the Baker Polito administration are yet another example of their commitment to renewable energies. We owe them a debt of gratitude”
“The climate crisis is very daunting, and the Offshore Wind Industry in the US faces a lot of hurdles spanning the logistics of establishing a strong, union backed workforce to ensuring equity and environmental justice to disadvantaged communities,“ said VinciVR CEO Eagle Wu. “We have to do everything we can to inspire younger generations like mine to get involved and turn a crisis into an opportunity. I’m happy that Vinci can play a role in building the workforce needed to push the transition to green energy. “
“The U.S. offshore wind industry is growing and shows a lot of promise. With this partnership, we hope to help close the workforce training gap in a safe, expedited and cost-efficient manner,” said Cynthia Brown, Head of Training Service Americas, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy. “We are excited to see this innovative training solution become available to students of all ages.”
Additionally, VinciVR is launching an Offshore Wind Recruiting Package aimed at engaging and exciting the next generation of industry experts. Vinci is currently in the process of converting its training simulations into interactive experiences aimed at educating high school, middle school, and post-secondary school students about the scale and operations of renewable energy. These efforts work hand in hand with MassCEC’s goals of developing and recruiting a diverse, equitable, and highly skilled workforce in offshore wind through increased access to training opportunities and reduced barriers to entry into the offshore wind industry.
On October 13, 2021 Governor Baker filed legislation to direct $750 million to support the continued growth and development of the Commonwealth’s clean energy industry. The legislation, An Act to Power Massachusetts’ Clean Energy Economy, would establish a new Clean Energy Investment Fund, totaling $750 million, that would support innovation, research and development, and job training in the clean energy sector, significantly expanding Massachusetts’s national leadership on clean energy and climate change.
In March of 2021, Governor Baker signed comprehensive climate change legislation that increased the Administration’s authorization to solicit an additional 2,400 Megawatts of offshore wind, bringing the state’s total commitment to 5,600 Megawatts.
In May 2021, the Baker-Polito Administration and the Commonwealth’s electric distribution companies released the RFP for the third round of offshore wind energy solicitations under the Section 83C process, allowing bids up to 1600 Megawatts, doubling the size of previous procurements. In this solicitation, for the first time, the Administration required bidders to submit diversity, equity and inclusion plans that includes a Workforce Diversity Plan and Supplier Diversity Program Plan. The plans will outline bidders' commitment to promoting employment and procurement/contracting opportunities for minority, women, veterans, LGBT and persons with disabilities. The RFP also includes an enhanced criteria for economic benefits, including workforce development, local supply chain investments, and research and innovation. Bids were due on September 16, 2021 and a winning bid will be selected on December 17, 2021.
In September 2021, the Administration announced the release of a new report assessing the workforce strengths, gaps, and opportunities in Massachusetts for the emerging offshore wind industry. The report analyzes offshore wind workforce development in the Northeast with a specific focus on Massachusetts, including an overview of the existing, relevant regional training programs, including grantees awarded under MassCEC’s 2018 and 2020 workforce development awards. The analysis also examines the workforce needed to achieve Massachusetts’ ambitious offshore wind goals, and the state’s ability to supply the necessary workers.
Strengthening STEM education in the Commonwealth’s K-12 schools is a priority of the Baker-Polito Administration. The first STEM Week was held in October 2018 as a way to boost interest in STEM subjects among students, particularly young women and minority students, and highlight the abundance of career opportunities in the Commonwealth. STEM Week is a collaborative effort between the Executive Office of Education; the STEM Advisory Council, which works to generate interest and support from the business community for STEM activities and is co-chaired by Lt. Governor Polito, Congressman Jake Auchincloss and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Executive Chairman Jeffrey Leiden; and the Commonwealth’s nine Regional STEM Networks, which plan and coordinate activities with local schools, community leaders and business partners.