The Algae Technology Education Consortium (ATEC) is developing opportunities for education and training for next-generation jobs in the bioeconomy. | Photo courtesy of ATEC

The Algae Technology Education Consortium (ATEC), a collaboration among the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Algae Foundation, universities, community colleges, and industry production companies across the United States, has successfully implemented the first semester of the ATEC curriculum at Santa Fe Community College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The curriculum is part of a new, two-year degree program in Algae Biology, Technology, and Cultivation, with an overall goal of preparing students to be successful in technician positions in the algal industry. With funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), the ATEC project will strengthen workforce capabilities in the growing algal industry.

Algae provides novel sources for feed, food, cosmetics, and nutraceuticals; industrial chemicals and dyes; and ultimately biofuels. According to ATEC’s job assessment survey, there will be a tenfold increase—nearly 12,000 jobs that will need to be filled by 2021. To support the rapid growth of the industry, there is an emerging need for a knowledgeable workforce in algal cultivation. The ATEC project targets this need through the design of an innovative curriculum in algal education at the community college level, with a one-year certificate and two-year associate of science degree. Certificate and degree holders will have a unique set of marketable skills for industry that will reduce training time and improve workplace productivity and efficiency.

With the success of implementing the first three courses at Santa Fe Community College, three additional courses will be offered at the school in 2017, with plans on introducing the curriculum at additional community colleges. The ATEC project also anticipates the completion of an introductory massive online open course in the near future for anyone who has an interest in learning more about algae.  

The ATEC project is part of BETO’s work to support the advancement of the bioenergy workforce through the development and enhancement of traditional and nontraditional pathways to bioenergy-related training and careers.