With the renewable-energy industry growing, skilled employees are needed.

Erik Foley, director of the Renewable Energy Center at St. Francis University, said a business-based Renewable Energy Degree program curriculum is being developed.

The concentration will be wind energy.

It will be the first of its kind in the country.

“We’ve done quite a lot of research to be able to say that,” Foley said in a telephone interview.

He said the new program will be offered as a graduate-level program and later to undergraduates.

Larry Rager, a business professor, said he is developing a unique curriculum that includes courses in finance, marketing, environmental science and project management.

“The opportunity for people in renewable areas for jobs and careers are developing quickly,” he said.

Rager said graduates aren’t meant to become experts in energy; however, an internship will be a program requirement so they can have experience in the field.

“Without the ability to converse in some way, they’re not useful to an employer,” he said. “We’re trying to prepare them to go into a job.”

Brian Lamers, director of development for Gamesa’s Atlantic Region, said the degree program is much needed.

“We welcome and support St. Francis University’s efforts to establish this program,” he said. “Our industry is growing very quickly, and there is a need for highly skilled professionals and highly skilled technicians.”

Lamers said wind energy is becoming widely used because it is increasingly cost effective, it does not produce emissions and it’s a source of economic development.

The curriculum development is funded by a Keystone Innovation Starter Kit Grant.

University administrators plan to expand the degree program to include solar energy and biofuels.

Brett Amheiser, operation supervisor at Homer City Generating Station, is interested in the program.

“Knowing my competition as well as knowing what opportunities there are in the renewables, (the degree) would be a benefit to me,” he said. “Renewables are a growing industry. I don’t think there is any doubt that there is going to be a market there.”

St. Francis is developing a wind farm that is to be completed in 2007.

The initial enrollees will begin courses during the summer of 2007 and will graduate the following summer.

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