In episode 10 of Futureproof Focus, Dr. Sharon B. De Vivo, President and Chief Executive Officer of Vaughn College and host of the podcast, sat down with Phil Rugile, Executive Director at the Institute for Workforce Advancement (IWA) and OSW Supply Chain on Long Island. In this exciting conversation, Rugile talked about how his work with Vaughn and local high schools is providing students with critical courses in what are known as “composites” to help build the workforce and supply chain for the Northeastern Offshore Wind Project on Long Island. The new workforce training facility in Brentwood, which will be the first of its kind to expand educational and career opportunities for Suffolk County residents was also highlighted.

What are composites?

For those who are not familiar with the term “composite materials,” Rugile describes them as anything that is not wood or pure metal. For example, the combining of two materials forms a composite. “The composite is stronger together than the two materials are alone,” Rugile explained. “They are more efficient and lighter, making them perfect for offshore wind projects as well as airplane and automotive parts and other manufacturing needs.”

How composites are creating career pathways

As an ambassador for renewable energy and offshore wind, Rugile holds multiple roles at the IWA and has spearheaded the mission to create career pathways by expanding research in the use of composites and advanced engineering practices. By partnering with Vaughn—along with the Cradle of Aviation and OSW—IWA is able to offer courses to high school students in composite manufacturing that can lead to exciting career opportunities. “There’s a gap between the kinds of careers kids are exposed to, compared to the careers and opportunities that actually exist in composite manufacturing,” said Rugile. “By bridging this gap, we are able to bring students into the program and show them what careers these skills can lead to.”

Here are the steps he takes:

  • Introduce students to the program to gain their interest and create a career pathway
  • Show students the next steps to a career in renewable energy through Vaughn College’s degree and certification programs
  • Educate high school teachers about these career opportunities

Diversity in the offshore wind industry

DeVivo asked about the importance of diversifying the workforce in the offshore wind industry. Rugile replied: “This industry is driven by state requirements to be much more inclusive and to create a pool of industry resources that are very diverse. New York State is mandating that there is a plan to engage communities, such as minority-owned and women-owned businesses.” It is important to note that diversifying the workforce boosts career opportunities for adults—as well as students. “Because composites are becoming more prevalent, we are discovering new educational opportunities that never existed before,” said Rugile. “We are now training union workers on how to use composites. It’s a hands-on version of the program that is very successful.”

Brentwood training facility

In March 2022, the Suffolk County Legislature approved a plan to purchase state-owned property in Brentwood, Long Island for $1.46 million to build a workforce training facility. The purpose of this facility, slated to open sometime in 2024, is to strengthen the career pipeline for students and the local economy. Rugile explained that the facility was originally planned to serve as a haven for kids after school. “About five years ago, Brentwood had the worst gang problem in the entire state of New York. Today, the reimagined space has three critical elements that are sure to open doors of opportunity for a new generation.” They include:

  • A community center to provide a safe space for youth to go after school and explore their interests and talents in a meaningful way
  • A workforce training center where people of all ages can develop skills in composites, machining, construction, engineering, safety and more so they can succeed in these fields
  • The National Offshore Wind Training Center, the facility that will provide students with an introduction to the field and provide a pathway to obtain their Global Wind Organization Certification

Offshore Wind Project support

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERD) is working to bring at least 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2035, enough to power six million homes. This is part of the state’s goal to reach 70% of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2030. Long Island is a focus area of this initiative. Offshore wind farms are in development through large developers and energy companies, which are being supported by infrastructure upgrades and training programs, like Rugile’s. New projects of this magnitude take time, but will come to fruition according to Rugile.

Explore careers in offshore wind and renewable energy sources

Offshore wind is coming to Long Island in a big way, which will create a myriad of career opportunities. To learn how you can start your training and become part of the renewable energy movement, check out: OSW Long Island. Watch episode 10 of our podcast in its entirety and check out our . You can also learn about Vaughn’s engineering programs and check out Vaughn’s certificate in composite manufacturing.