Fellows in the News

Chris Madsen needed a career change. After owning and operating his own construction business for over 20 years, a hand injury propelled him to look in other directions. At 45, the father of two enrolled in the plant operations program at Walla Walla Community College. “An area that is focused on heavily [in the program] is the chemical process we use in order to utilize bioenergy,” says Madsen, who also completed a summer internship at biorefinery developer ZeaChem, an industry partner of the Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project.

Madsen and others are part of a growing number of students recognizing the value of instruction and hands-on experience to meet the needs of a growing bioproducts workforce. The program, which is administered in partnership with the Agriculture Center of Excellence, is a component of AHB’s education efforts. Classes began in the fall of 2013, and in addition to the core applied associate degree in plant operations, students can earn certificates in bioproducts, biomass feedstock management, or even a transfer degree in plant operations. “The program prepares students to work in facilities converting biomass into electricity, heat, transportation fuels, clean water and high-value chemicals and products,” says Jason Selwitz, colead of AHB’s Education Team, project manager at the Agriculture Center of Excellence, and a WWCC Energy Systems Technology instructor.

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