There are all kinds of ways to get young people excited about saving energy. Recently, on the Energy Savers Blog, we’ve been pointing elementary and high school teachers and students to America’s Home Energy Education Challenge. This nationwide initiative engages students at schools across the country to learn more about how energy works in their homes and communities; it also encourages them to work with their parents to take simple steps that can save them energy and money. But there are a number of other programs funded through the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy that are helping college students to kick-start careers in clean energy – careers that will set them on a lifelong path to a more secure energy future for the nation.

DOE announced today new funding for a highly successful program that helps train undergraduate- and graduate-level engineering students in manufacturing efficiency, and enables them to join the next generation of industrial energy efficiency experts. The Industrial Assessment Center program prepares promising engineering students around the country to conduct energy assessments in a broad range of manufacturing facilities, giving them the skills and experience they need to compete in today's economy. At the same time, the program helps local companies and factories reduce energy waste, save money, and become more economically competitive.

Last week, DOE also announced new funding for another long-standing program that helps train the workforce for careers in advanced vehicle development. The Graduate Automotive Technology Education (GATE) program funding will support seven Centers of Excellence at American colleges, universities, and university-affiliated research institutions. These Centers will help prepare college students for careers designing and building advanced vehicle technologies in three critical automotive technology areas: hybrid propulsion, energy storage, and lightweight materials. By funding curriculum development and expansion, as well as laboratory work, GATE allows higher education institutions to develop multidisciplinary training.

In July, DOE announced a nationwide initiative that will create a network of regional student-focused clean energy business creation competitions; winners will compete for a National Grand Prize. The initiative will support up to six regional competitions that will inspire, mentor, and train students from across the country to develop successful business plans to create a new generation of American clean energy companies. Student teams that participate in the competitions will work with mentors from the energy industry and startup community, along with university and national lab-based researchers, to develop creative business plans for transforming ground-breaking energy technologies into high impact market solutions.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 is gearing up as student teams get set to build their highly efficient, solar-powered houses on the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C. The Solar Decathlon is an award-winning program that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. The biennial, international competition provides participating students with unique training that prepares them to enter our nation's clean-energy workforce. This year’s event is open to the public from Sept. 23 through Oct. 2. Learn more about visiting the event and follow the event on your favorite social media sites by clicking on the icons on the homepage.

Finally, EcoCAR 2 is a three-year collegiate engineering competition that offers a hands-on, real-world experience to educate the next generation of automotive engineers. The competition challenges 15 universities across North America to reduce the environmental impact of a Chevrolet Malibu without compromising performance, safety, and consumer acceptability. Shaped by the greatest design changes in the history of the automotive industry, EcoCAR 2 requires students to explore a variety of powertrain architectures focusing on electric drive vehicle technology.

As someone who works every day to walk the walk to a brighter energy future, I hope that our readers will think about how they can get involved or help someone in their lives to start a career addressing our nation’s energy challenges. They won’t regret it.

Eric Barendsen is a communications specialist and Presidential Management Fellow with EERE's Communications and Outreach office in Washington, D.C.