To stay a top competitor in today’s global economy, we need to make sure that students who aspire to be the next generation of America’s scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs can get the hands-on experience and training they need to lead our industries and businesses.
The Energy Department takes an active role in cultivating the leaders of tomorrow in the field of clean energy. This role has probably never been more important as more and more people understand the need to expand our use of renewable energy and energy efficiency to tackle the challenges we face as a global community.
The Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy  supports a number of workforce development and training programs that you might have heard of already, and others that might be new to you. Here’s a list of a few of the ones I’ve been following recently:
- The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon  challenges 20 teams from colleges and universities across the United States and from around the world to build solar-powered, highly energy-efficient homes that combine affordability, consumer appeal and design excellence. Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently announced  the 20 collegiate teams selected to compete in 2013 and unveiled the competition’s location, the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California.
- EcoCAR 2: Plugging in to the Future  is a unique competition that helps train students and engineers to become the next generation of workers the U.S. needs to lead the global auto industry.
- America's Home Energy Education Challenge  helps educate students about the benefits of energy efficiency, motivates them to play an active role in how their families use energy, and inspires young people to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
- Using the National Training and Education Resource , DOE is partnering  with the Manufacturing Institute, an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers, the Ford Partnership for Advanced Studies, and Macomb Community College to explore opportunities to provide students with highly interactive and engaging materials in a variety of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) areas, as well as virtual technician training.
- The National University Clean Energy Business Challenge  supports 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.
- The Industrial Assessment Centers  enable promising engineering students around the country to conduct energy assessments in a broad range of manufacturing facilities, providing skills and experience that prepares them to compete in today's economy while helping local companies and factories to reduce energy waste, save money, and become more economically competitive.
- The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Postdoctoral Research Awards  offer recent PhD recipients the opportunity to conduct applied research at universities, national laboratories, and other research facilities.
- Wind for Schools  helps students gain not only practical knowledge in wind turbine technologies, but also get hands-on experience installing turbines, and kick-starts careers for U.S. students entering science and engineering fields.
- The National Geothermal Student Competition  is an intercollegiate competition that challenges students to advance their understanding of geothermal  energy's potential and provides students with opportunities to gain important industry knowledge, skills and experience.
- The Hydrogen Student Design Contest  challenges university students to design hydrogen energy applications for real-world use and showcases the talents of students in many disciplines, including engineering, architecture, marketing, and entrepreneurship.
All of these efforts open opportunities for the students of today to become the leaders of tomorrow. Pass along these ideas to others, and help a young mind prepare for an exciting career in clean energy.
Eric Barendsen is a communications specialist and former Presidential Management Fellow with EERE's Communications and Outreach office in Washington, D.C.