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Prince Georgians learn, network at energy job fair

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Photo by Kayla Faria. University of Maryland sophomore environmental science major Terrance Glover, 19, meets with Engineering Tech Harlan Smith of SCS Engineers. Employed by Prince George’s County, SCS Engineers is a consulting group that specializes in solid waste, landfill and environmental services.

Photo by Kayla Faria. University of Maryland sophomore environmental science major Terrance Glover, 19, meets with Engineering Tech Harlan Smith of SCS Engineers. Employed by Prince George’s County, SCS Engineers is a consulting group that specializes in solid waste, landfill and environmental services.

Published on: Wednesday, August 14, 2013

By Kayla Faria

Students and recent graduates stepped into the gymnasium at Suitland Elementary School wearing dresses, slacks and button-down shirts. The young professionals were searching for jobs.

Clozynergy — a public charity that teaches the energy life cycle in Prince George’s County – hosted a “Renewable Energy Marketplace” job fair last Thursday to “empower Prince Georgians” and prepare them for energy jobs.

“This is a hook up,” Clozynergy founder Terry Goolsby said during an “energy conversation” with the small group. “These guys are here and they’re experts on (renewable energy) worldwide.”

The networking event featured SCS Engineers, Fugro, The Peninsula Compost Group LLC, and SemaConnect Inc. – companies with a vested interest in renewable energy — and a visual presentation on offshore wind projects.

Less than 20 intern and job applicants attended the fair, providing an “intimate setting,” to learn about working in renewable energy-related jobs, University of Maryland freshman Raenah Coggins said. Attendees said they appreciated the one-on-one time with industry leaders.

“I’m tired of corporate B-S where you’re treated like another number, and I want to do something more rewarding (and) fulfilling,” Laurel resident Dushyanthi Niyangado, 27, said. “Something that will benefit the world.”

Niyangado graduated with a degree in environmental science and philosophy.

While some came armed with resumes headlined by an environmental science or engineering background, others aimed to find how their different educational experiences might segue into the energy sector.

“I figured it could translate to something,” Coggins said of her computer science background. “Everything needs technology.”

Ricardo Ledbetter Jr., an Upper Marlboro resident with a communications degree from Connecticut’s Mitchell College, talked about using his communication skills to promote renewable energy.

“My goal is to help to create a sustainable environment and that means an environment that’s built to last,” Ledbetter said. 

Amos Evans, a 19-year-old sophomore mechanical engineering major at Carnegie Mellon University, was unsure if the county’s environment would foster opportunities in his field.

“I wasn’t confident PG would have opportunities for me,” he said.

The Oxon Hill High School Science and Technology Program alumnus added that people “don’t think” of the county as an engineering hotbed. “Maybe now it will become one,” he said.

The Peninsula Compost Group LLC is planning to build a composting center in a “rural area” of Prince George’s County within a year. The group already has a composting facility in Wilmington, Del. Its Prince George’s County facility would convert commercial food scraps into useable soil and compost products, Partner Nelson Widell said.

“Its composting facilities will benefit the country by diverting organic waste, which would otherwise be dumped into our nation’s landfills, thereby avoiding the unnecessary production of methane, a potent greenhouse gas,” according to The Peninsula Compost Group website.

“We need to work with Mother Nature, not against her,” Widell said. “Composting is part of environmental stewardship.”

“We see this facility as an educational center and laboratory for interns,” Widell added.

Widell looked for people with a science background and a passion. “People that will grow with us,” he said. He asked Terrance Glover, a 19-year-old University of Maryland sophomore environmental science major, to “stay in touch.” 

Multinational Dutch company Fugro builds bridges and ports, including the “largest land reclamation project in North America” — Virginia’s Craney Island, Fugro representative Sally McNeilan said. Specializing in offshore wind development, the company touts involvement in 80 percent of offshore wind projects in Europe and employs 13,000 people in 60 countries.

But many of the attendees said they were most looking forward to hearing more about local composting.

“I love the fact that you can right your wrongs in a way,” Narlyia Sterling, 24, a Suitland High School and Howard University acting alumna said. “These are things that, on a local level, have a quicker turn around.”

Goolsby emphasized this focus on waste is not displaced.

“When Prince Georgians focus on this waste, they will receive business opportunities, jobs and money,” she said.

The Clozynergy founder said the county is leading the way in converting landfill methane to electricity, before introducing SCS Engineers; a consulting group employed by the county.

Evans chatted with another prospective job applicant, while waiting to speak with SCS Engineers. He motioned to James Wright, Director of Operations for SemaConnect. “He does exactly what I want to do,” Evans said.

Wright, an engineering alumnus from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, said he was looking for “talent” in the area to fulfill a junior engineering internship position and a customer relations position for the Bowie-based company that produces networked electric vehicle charging stations. But, more than anything, he wants someone who is eager to learn different engineering roles. “I’ll teach them,” he said. 

Despite the low turnout, Coggins said more people would have come had they known about the event. 

“It’s exciting,” she said. “I’m sure everyone would have benefitted.”

Goolsby said the low attendance “says a lot about policies surrounding renewable energy,” pointing to a political climate that lacks energy business “incentives” and added that energy policy has historically been controlled by corporations through language. The term “green” is “vague” and “misleading,” the event host said.

In 2010, the United States had 3.1 million green jobs — making production process more environmentally friendly or working in business that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It accounted for 2.4 percent of the total national wage and salary employment.

Still, Sterling said the low turnout could be attributed to a tendency to think of renewable energy as a job sector exclusive to engineers.

“You don’t know until you’re exposed to the information,” she said.

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