GCC gets smart-meter money

A new $90,000 grant will help Glendale Community College prepare students to succeed in the growing green technology industry, officials said.

The Glendale City Council is expected to approve the Verdugo Workforce Investment Board grant, which would fund 96 hours of smart-meter training for 30 students.

The money comes from a larger $250,000 grant awarded to the United Way of Greater Los Angeles as part of the Pathways Out of Poverty program, a component of the federal stimulus bill.

The training is designed to provide bankable skills to economically disadvantaged students, opening up career opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach, said Don Nakamoto, executive director of the Verdugo Workforce Investment Board.

"This is a brand of new technology that is being implemented around the country," Nakamoto said. "The Obama administration has really emphasized the green industry and green technology, so a lot of money is flowing into this area."

Smart utility meters are rapidly transforming the industry, allowing utility companies and their customers to monitor usage in real time, and providing instant alerts in the case of service interruptions.

The announcement of the new grant comes just weeks after Glendale Water & Power initiated a full-scale roll-out of a $70-million smart-grid modernization project. The installation of smart meters, which is expected to continue into the summer, was contracted out to Utility Partners of America, a utility services provider.

The first class of 15 trainees will begin in late January or early February, Nakamoto said. The second class will start sometime in the spring. Students are being recruited from 30 north Los Angeles County ZIP Codes that are considered below poverty level according to federal standards.

The grant will help the college build on its existing smart-grid curriculum, said Scott Rubke, chairman of the technology and aviation division at Glendale Community College. Instruction will cover information controls, optimizing grid operations and resources and responding to power demands.

"We are trying to serve these folks as quickly as we can, and get them out into the workforce," Rubke said.

The smart-grid program has a 76% job placement rate, and officials said they are working with contractors to find positions for the incoming students.

"We are working very closely with the contractor that is in Glendale, Utility Partners of America," Nakamoto said. "They have contracts all over the country. Once the [students] receive training, they have access to all the openings at Utility Partners of America, but also other companies who are doing similar change-outs."

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