By Steven Froias
From the windows of the New Bedford Economic Development Council’s office at 1213 Purchase Street, we can see the future Bristol Community College (Bristol) National Offshore Wind Institute (NOWI) being built across Rte. 18.
NOWI will open soon at 198 Herman Melville Boulevard in New Bedford, Massachusetts. However, even as construction continues on the nation’s first facility dedicated to offshore wind workforce training, NOWI is busy pursuing its mission.
That would be to support the emerging offshore wind industry with the needed training and educational opportunity necessary for the development of career pipelines – for both workers and to meet supply chain needs.
In response to the emerging industry finding a home from the Port of New Bedford, NOWI offers a comprehensive array of required hands-on courses to help ensure a workforce that has the skills, competencies, and certifications required for safe careers in offshore wind.
Training courses are already ongoing at various venues throughout Southeastern Massachusetts. For this training, Bristol and NOWI have partnered with Maersk Training, which has 40 years of experience in training around the onshore and offshore wind industries.
Yet, even as NOWI’s future permanent home is taking shape along the New Bedford waterfront, Bristol isn’t following a “Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come” playbook to launch the facility.
Rather, with the support of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, NOWI has embarked on a novel community outreach campaign called “Wind Works.” It will create and conduct a neighborhood outreach strategy in New Bedford focused on facilitating the entry of community members into the offshore wind industry.
It takes a village
To make it work, they’ve partnered with Old Bedford Village, the community development organization led by John “Buddy” Andrade. The campaign will focus on the identification of career pathways into offshore wind as well as educational pathways for students at Bristol and University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Students of New Bedford schools, and residents of the city’s Black, indigenous and ethnic communities will be actively cultivated to take part.
A series of outreach meetings will take place over the next several months throughout New Bedford. Already, a few “beta” test meetings for the project have taken place at Dennison Memorial Community Center in the south end, the PACCA Recovery Support Center in the north end, and the Boys and Girls Club in the west end.
Before the full slate of meetings are launched this summer, a comprehensive communication program with outreach materials, such as short videos, infographics for e-blasts and social media, brochures, and display banners are being created. These will complement MassCEC’s online Clean Energy Careers and Education Directory to highlight career pathways available in offshore wind.
The New Bedford Ocean Cluster in action
The Bristol/NOWI Wind Works project is but one of the means by which New Bedford is seeking to secure a dominant position in the growing offshore wind energy industry.
Bristol – as well as the New Bedford Economic Development Council – is invested in the success of the New Bedford Ocean Cluster (NBOC), too.
That group, led by Executive Director Jennifer Downing, was formed to leverage New Bedford’s coastal position, marine knowledge base, and landside capacity to drive employment and wealth creation for New Bedford residents. To help accomplish its goals, it works collaboratively with private, public and academic sector partners.
On Friday, June 10, the NBOC brought together these partners when it hosted a delegation of Belgian companies in New Bedford to explore opportunities for partnership and investment in the region’s growing offshore wind market.
The NBOC reports that, “Delegates spent the afternoon at the Whaling Museum networking and hearing presentations by Mayor Jon Mitchell, Jennifer Downing, NBOC Executive Director; and Bill White, Avangrid Renewables’ President and CEO, Offshore.
“A panel discussion with representatives from Context Labs and Spherical Analytics, MassCEC, Bristol Community College, and the MassHire Greater New Bedford Workforce Investment Board explored state and local issues and opportunities related to offshore wind workforce development and training.”
Wind Works – around the corner and around the globe
The combined efforts of NOWI’s Wind Works project and the New Bedford Ocean Cluster and its members illustrate how the promise and potential of the offshore wind industry is being activated – around the corner in New Bedford neighborhoods and around the globe with strategic partnerships.
Before hosting the Belgian delegation, on the evening of June 9, the NBOC and local partners, including the New Bedford Economic Development Council, Bristol Community College, UMass Dartmouth, and others, joined the Belgian Economic Trade Mission at the Greentown Labs in Somerville to celebrate leadership in offshore wind development in Massachusetts.
“In front of Gov. Charlie Baker, Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid of Belgium, and Flanders Minister-President Jan Jambon, the NBOC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Belgium Blue Cluster to formally express both parties’ intent to explore collaboration, and foster innovation and international trade,” the NBOC writes.
Powering a new industry – with people
As the offshore wind energy industry sets sail in New Bedford, it will be powered by the collective efforts of the people in this city and region.
Bristol Community College’s National Offshore Wind Institute, with Wind Works, is seeking those people out in our community.
The New Bedford Ocean Cluster is helping with that effort, and also bringing together regional, state, national and international collaborators at the Port of New Bedford for sustained development onshore and offshore.
Proving that empowering people is the best possible investment in the future.