POTTER TOWNSHIP, PA, September 21, 2020—Today, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Advanced Welding Workforce Initiative (AWWI).
This RFP is the result of a new partnership between ARC and NETL to invest in education and training for advanced technical workers in Appalachia. As a joint effort, $1 million is available through the AWWI for training facilities and programs to develop and implement specialized curricula and learning modules in welding and other advanced manufacturing skills such as robotics and process control.
These programs will expand the qualified high-tech workforce serving the region’s energy generation industry, as well as growing aerospace, aviation, automotive and petrochemical industries.
Local development districts, American Indian tribes, states, counties and cities, institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations, including unions, and consortiums of these organizations are eligible to apply for these funds.
The majority of the program’s funding ($750,000) is provided by DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy High Performance Materials program to prepare a new generation of welders to manufacture and service high-temperature alloy components in advanced coal- and natural gas-fueled electric generating stations. Such plants operate at significantly higher temperatures and pressures, which increases efficiency and lowers emissions of carbon dioxide but requires the use of superalloys that can withstand the harsh conditions. Proposals are sought to develop a workforce with high-tech welding skills to use those advanced materials to ensure the successful operation of low- and near-zero emission plants powered by Appalachia’s abundant reserves of coal and gas.
Demand for workers with similar skills are needed in the automotive, aerospace, aviation and petrochemical industries. It is expected that the RFP will support training programs that prepare workers in the use of robotics and related high-tech skills that are needed by these growing and emerging industries and make use of similar high-temperature materials. Therefore, a key outcome of the AWWI is increased employment in Appalachia and industrial economic activity.
“The value chain associated with the emerging natural gas and petrochemical industry cluster in Appalachia will continue to yield new opportunities for good jobs in growing fields, like advanced welding.,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas. “President Trump has made supporting American workers a priority for his administration, and that is reflected by this innovative partnership, one that supports high-quality training programs that ensure Appalachia has a well-trained, ready workforce able to meet industry needs.”
NETL has a strong tradition of supporting partnerships to improve the energy and economic security of the United States. “We are pleased to partner with the ARC to develop a program that will not only help supply the nation with clean, affordable and reliable energy but also create good-paying jobs for a new generation of high-tech workers,” said NETL Director Brian Anderson.
“We are investing in a partnership that will enable the nation to continue to use its abundant natural resources of Appalachian coal and natural gas to produce affordable electricity while preparing men and women for new employment opportunities. We are proud to be part of this effort,” Anderson said.
As described in the RFP, successful AWWI applications will:
- Create a pipeline of qualified workers who can apply the latest high-temperature materials, manufacturing processes and service/repair techniques developed in DOE’s High Performance Materials program for use in the nation’s power generation infrastructure;
- Design and implement comprehensive training programs in advanced manufacturing for careers in the energy, automotive, aerospace, aviation and petrochemical industries;
- Enroll displaced workers, new entrants to the workforce, incumbent workers and individuals recovering from substance abuse disorders (for example, opioids, methamphetamine, heroin and other substances) into the programs;
- Align and integrate workforce development activities with existing state, regional and community economic development strategies as well as ARC’s current Strategic Investment Plan; and
- Specify the number of individuals anticipated to be served by the proposed training and include a system to track how many obtain new employment or enhance their current employment.
ARC and NETL anticipate the majority of forthcoming AWWI awards will serve communities in North, North Central and Central Appalachia. Special consideration will be given to proposed programs serving designated federal Opportunity Zones within Appalachia.
AWWI proposals are due by 5 p.m. (ET) Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. Application guidance and other information is available at arc.gov/AWWI.
The Appalachian Energy and Petrochemical Renaissance: An Examination of Economic Progress and Opportunity, a report released by the DOE in June 2020, found that petrochemical manufacturing currently in development in Appalachia is projected to attract between $16 billion and $20 billion in capital investment, and create more than 9,800 jobs directly and indirectly in Appalachia by 2025.
Assessing the Export Potential for High-Performance Materials and High Performance Alloy Applications in Adjacent Markets released by DOE in October 2019 and June 2020, respectively, found that there were significant opportunities to leverage high-performance materials (HPM) research supported by DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE) beyond coal- and gas-fired power plants.
These opportunities include industrial gas turbines and can be found in aerospace, chemical processing and the automotive industry. An additional conclusion of the reports was that the United States can export materials and manufactured goods globally, creating U.S. jobs, incremental economic activity and improved balance of trade. According to the reports, the global HPM market generated more than $4 billion in revenue in 2016, which is expected to increase to $7.6 billion in 2023. The largest application of HPMs is aerospace, followed by industrial gas turbines, industrial and chemical processing and automotive. Together, these industries make up 92.5 percent of the current HPM market. An additional conclusion of these reports was that the global marketplace for these goods is highly competitive; therefore, additional investment in domestic workforce training is warranted.
About the Appalachian Regional Commission
The Appalachian Regional Commission (www.arc.gov) is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.
About the US Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Lab (NETL)
NETL (https://netl.doe.gov) is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that produces technological solutions for America’s energy challenges. From developing creative innovations and efficient energy systems that make coal more competitive, to advancing technologies that enhance oil and natural gas extraction and transmission processes, NETL research is providing breakthroughs and discoveries that support domestic energy initiatives, stimulate a growing economy, and improve the health, safety and security of all Americans. Highly skilled men and women at NETL’s sites in Albany, Oregon; Anchorage, Alaska; Houston, Texas; Morgantown, West Virginia; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania conduct a broad range of research activities that support DOE’s mission to advance the national, economic and energy security of the United States.