press release NSF Grant for EST

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KVCC awarded first National Science Foundation grant


Fairfield, ME –Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC) has been awarded a $736,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for its new Energy Services and Technology (EST) program to produce more qualified technicians to meet the growing demand from Maine-based energy services employers who need workers that possess a combination of cross-cutting technical skills and the ability to problem-solve complex, systemic issues. 


The EST program, which is unique in Maine, prepares students for careers in the rapidly growing field of installing, maintaining, and troubleshooting high-efficiency plumbing, heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems in buildings.  The EST program also prepares students for multiple career pathways, including entry level positions in the mechanical services/plumbing field and renewable energy. KVCC created the Associate of Science (AAS) degree program in response to the industry and market demands of a new energy economy.


The grant is funded by the NSF’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program.  The goal of the ATE program is to promote exemplary improvement in the way technicians are educated in the workplace.  As a result of the NSF ATE funding, KVCC’s program will: 1) assist KVCC and its industry partners in expanding the EST curriculum to foster the development of future student’s critical thinking and problem solving skills in mathematics and science; 2) expand education pathways between secondary and post-secondary education by facilitating partnerships with career and technical high schools and the University of Maine; 3) establish a state-of-the-art EST learning laboratory; 4) provide professional development for EST faculty and high school teachers; and 5) provide a model which can be disseminated nationally to enhance technical education and scientific literacy in the energy sector.


“We are honored to have been selected by the National Science Foundation to enhance the EST program,” KVCC’s Director of Energy Programs, Dana Doran, said. “This is an exceptional opportunity for KVCC to not only expand its program for the benefit of students and industry, but participate in a program which will disseminate the work to a national audience which will have broad reaching impacts.”


Doran noted how crucial the efforts and support of Maine’s congressional delegation were to KVCC’s success in securing the grant. Members of the delegation joined in applauding news of the award.


“This timely funding will help Kennebec Valley Community College graduate highly skilled technicians to assist Maine employers in meeting their growing demand for specialized workers in the plumbing, heating, ventilating, and cooling fields,” said Senator Olympia Snowe.  “By developing a new curriculum that includes hands-on training and real-life problem-solving opportunities, KVCC will establish a new generation of capable individuals with the experience necessary to excel in these critical areas and find well-paying jobs across our state.”


"This exciting new program will provide students with an array of invaluable technical skills so that they can enter the workforce and really hit the ground running," Senator Collins said. "I am delighted that KVCC will be receiving this award."


“This is exactly the type of initiative our state needs right now,” said Congressman Mike Michaud. “Training students for positions employers are seeking to fill now and that will be in high growth fields in the future is critical to improving our economy. Whether it’s helping them find a job or furthering their education, KVCC has always been dedicated to putting the needs of its students first. This new program is a win-win that will match employers with highly trained and prepared students that are ready to hit the ground running. I applaud the team at KVCC for their innovative work on this and look forward to following their progress.”


Upon completion of the EST program, students will be eligible to pursue four State of Maine licensure opportunities in plumbing, oil burner, solid fuel, propane and natural gas, as well as the US Environmental Protection Agency Refrigeration Certification.  Students are also trained on conservation methods and are eligible to pursue the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Official’s Green Plumber’s certification.


Graduates will find employment as entry level plumbers, heating, ventilation, and/or air conditioning technicians. They may also find employment as technicians for gas/propane, solid fuel and/or renewable systems such as solar heating and geothermal.   With additional coursework, students can pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology, business or another field of study. 


NSF is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; and to secure the national defense.  With an annual budget of about $6.9 billion, NSF is the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by American’s colleges and universities.  An essential element of NSF’s mission is support for science and engineering education to ensure that there will always be plenty of skilled people available to work in new and emerging scientific, engineering and technological fields. 

KVCC’s award from NSF is one of 70-75 new ATE awards nationally in 2012.  These awards are a result of the evaluation of 253 proposals submitted nationwide in 2011.    


The EST program is the latest addition to KVCC’s highly-regarded Trades and Technology Department, which also includes Applied Electronics and Computer Technology, Career Studies, Electrical Lineworker Technology, Electrical Technology, Precision Machining Technology, Pulp and Paper Technology, and Trade and Technical Occupations.


The new EST degree program is also closely affiliated with KVCC’s Energy Services and Technology Center, a premier education hub dedicated to traditional and renewable energy programs, and housed in the Muriel P. Frye Building.


Kennebec Valley Community College is one of seven community colleges in Maine. KVCC prepares full-time and part-time students to enter the job market, to transfer to colleges and universities, and to achieve their professional and personal goals.  Programs and services support the economic growth of the community in response to changing needs.


In 2011 and again in 2012, KVCC was named one of the top community colleges in the nation by the Aspen Institute, placing in the top 10 percent of two-year colleges based on student success rates.


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