By J Alex Gomez

California has some of the highest goals for cutting dependence on fossil fuels and high carbon producing energy, and leads the country in sustainability efforts and energy efficiency regulation (Title 24). In support of advanced energy technologies today and meet the State mandated changes in building and energy efficiency in the next few years, skilled technicians will be needed to engineer and maintain everything from energy efficient building systems to renewable power generating facilities.

College of the Desert’s recently unveiled multi-Career pathway focused on the Advanced Energy Economy with the Building and Energy Systems Professional (BESP), Associate of Science Degree that will cover fifteen job focused specializations in cross-disciplinary courses. The goal is to provide students with “entry level skills, knowledge, and industry driven competencies to successfully enter and succeed in the Building Science and Advanced Energy Systems fields.” Classes prepare and encourage students with the technical vocabulary, skills, and operational knowledge to be job-ready upon completion.

Completion of the BESP AS degree, is especially advantageous for those who pursuit an advanced energy industry leadership position. Selected electives support a concentration on high demand industry specialties that are stackable with other credentials and certificates. Students have the option to focus on particular advanced energy sectors by choosing from various depths of study. Student chosen electives are based on immediate educational needs and goals. They may also complete additional elective courses to combine other defined specialties within the BESP Degree program. Upon completion, students will have the technical background necessary to achieve multiple industry valued credentials and careers.


College of the Desert received a grant of $1,469,805 (9.8% of total) awarded under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training or TAACCCT program as implemented by the U.S. Department of Labor. A major investment, it’s designed to increase the ability of community colleges to address the challenges of today’s workforce and meet the emerging needs of industry for certified skilled individuals. Grants are designed to help workers eligible for training under the TAA for Workers program, as well as a broad range of other adults, disadvantaged students, and veterans.

These courses are ideal for working adults looking to excel if they are working in a covered industry or are looking to upgrade their career. They want to understand current state rules and mandates for energy conservation and learn what is mandatory under today’s state laws for managing energy, like new Zero Net Energy regulations for all new residential construction by 2020 and commercial buildings by 2030.

Enrollment is open to students and working adults until September 5th for the fall semester at a fraction of the cost of commercial trade schools and for-profit colleges. General education credits and some CTE courses are transferable to colleges and universities if the student wishes to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree. Certificate courses are now available on the programs new website, Most of these certificates are less than 30 units and are only $46 per unit, a cost of $1,380.

A full-time student can complete a certificate in Green HVAC, for example, in one year and be a certified technician in this area. In comparison to an array of for-profit vocational school a person enrolled in a non-academic institution can be looking at $10,000 to $12,000 or more. COD students may also be eligible for Pell grants, scholarships, BOG waivers, the PLEDGE program or other financial assistance.

Jon Caffery, M.Ed., Project Director for TAACCCT/Prop. 39 (Clean Energy Jobs Act) states “California’s Advanced Energy industry needs an additional 15,000 highly skilled workers every year, and Community Colleges are uniquely positioned to meet this need.”

Students looking for a career path in the fast-growing green technology and energy conservation technologies will find viable pathways that cost less and prepare them sooner than typical for-profit vocational schools. Adults looking for a new career pathway or to enhance their existing skills and knowledge can find greater income stability and demand in their job.

People can see the evidence of clean alternative power generation from solar farms, wind farms, residential solar, geo -thermal power plants and new energy efficient homes and commercial buildings. The Career and Technical Education program at College of the Desert provides exciting career pathways for those looking for direction. Academic skills are no longer enough on their own in the 21st century. A combination of academic, technical, employability and life skills are needed, and COD is uniquely suited to provide this education and hands-on training. More information at