Why city colleges should consider partnering with tech companies

Tue, 2016-07-26 09:35 -- Doug Peeples


We frequently recommend that cities partner with the technology companies that can best help them with planning and deploying their smart city projects. The cities benefit from technology and other resources they likely couldn't develop (or afford) on their own and the companies earn new business and establish themselves in growing smart city markets. Companies partnering with educational institutions to help train students to become the talented, skilled employees they need is also a great idea.

The story below describes a cooperative effort between the Energy Management Program at Oregon's Lane Community College and Council Associate Partner Siemens. Not only do the students get the opportunity for a real-world education in a rapidly expanding field and a possible job, but that pool of highly trained technicians also is attractive to companies considering relocating. And that's good for the local economy. —Doug Peeples


After Joe Levesque completed the two-year Energy Management Program at Lane Community College, he was hired as an energy engineer by Siemens three years ago. The program helped him get his disrupted career path back on track and he wanted to contribute in some way.

As Levesque told the Register Guard newspaper, "After I came on at Siemens, I wanted to give back to the school." He talked to Siemens officials and schools—and he must have been convincing. This spring, LCC and Siemens partnered to provide top students in the Energy Management Program's building controls systems coursework with the option of a paid internship with the company.

Just to put it into perspective, the building automation systems market is expected to top $100 billion by 2022. Part of the reason is the promise of greatly improved energy efficiency and security as well as recommendations from the federal government to cut energy use in commercial buildings by as much as 30% by 2030.

Roger Ebbage, LCC Energy Management Program director, put it this way: "It's not only about understanding how buildings consume energy. By understanding how control systems work, you get the most efficiency and maximize energy savings.

"There hasn't been a period in my time working in Lane where I've seen a hotter sector in our industry." Ebbage has worked at LCC since 1992.

The internship is relatively small for now, But Siemens Oregon Service Manager Erik Shaw and Ebbage agreed they expect it to grow as it continues. Shaw said the number of Siemens employees in Oregon has grown substantially over the past few years. "We're always looking for a broad range of people, from entry level through senior levels," Shaw said, adding that LCC's Energy Management Program is important for his company's recruiting efforts and that the company is working to get other colleges to provide the same type of program.

For more on the topic...
City officials interested in taking on expert partners to help them with their smart city planning and projects will want to read the Ideas to Action chapter in the Smart Cities Readiness Guide. In addition to discussions on how to turn planning into reality, the numerous ways partners can be valuable resources also is addressed.

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.