About 45 years ago, back when computers first came on the scene, barely evolved, nobody would have guessed technology could come so far.
Matthew Isaac, executive director of economic development and corporate training for the San Bernardino Community College District, remembers working on his dissertation during the 1980s, laboriously entering long lines of script just to finish one paragraph of his paper.
Today, every area of life is linked to the computer, and with each passing year, the technology just gets smaller. Those super small advances add up and tiny technology is in big demand.
Cell phone technology now has batteries that last ten times longer, which eventually helps drive electric cars. Nanotechnology also drives computer capability to higher levels, with chips now half the size of a postage stamp packing a whopping 450 million transistors.
But when it comes to the promise of nanotechnology, Dr. Isaac says he’s most excited about health and material science, like “training” drugs to cluster around and destroy cancerous tumors.
“Keep in mind,” he says, “a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. At nano-scale, if we create therapeutic drugs it can pass through biological membranes without it even detecting the passage.”
Yes, it sounds like Star Trek, but there’s a good chance that particles can be pre-programmed right to the source of the illness, he adds. It's next generation nanotechnology in medicine. Currently, one of his colleagues operates a two pronged “nano-knife,” a probe as the size of a needle attached to a computer for noninvasive surgery to remove cancer from a liver.
While deep excursions into the miniscule nano-world still require more math than many students can muster, Dr. Isaac says it’s possible to get in on the ground floor of other technology that takes just a few weeks to a couple months to get in at entry level.
The National Science Foundation estimates that two million nanotechnology jobs will be needed by 2015. Right now, there are about 25,000 in the world, he said.
Other Green technology opportunity is around the corner. In the next three years, BrightSource Energy outside of Needles is working on three plants to be completed by 2013 and expected to produce 1,000 jobs in a project considered the largest of its kind in the world. The project will power 140,000 homes.
Soon, the growing technology will produce jobs at all levels, such as cars that don’t have to be driven, and excellence in GIS systems.
“With GIS systems, we will be able to control the cars. The car will be able to drive by itself,” Dr. Isaac said.
In fact, in the near future, cars will be driving themselves. The technology is already in existence with using GIS systems, another fast-training program through Valley College.
San Bernardino Community College is now also working with one the largest geo-spacial companies in the world, GSRI in Redlands.
At Long Beach City College, Rola Halawanji, program manager, is hoping to get more of their tech programs fast-tracked with certification. Their current program proved successful in helping 50 students get a foothold in technical industries in the past year.
But as that program nears the end, several professors at the school hope to continue curriculum with semester classes so students can upgrade skills and get recognized with certification.
“A lot of people that have been trained are what we call at the forefront of market transformation,” Ms. Halawanji said.
As the state changes its building codes, she said workers must get familiar with efficiency practices that the state is pushing forward.
The college program was funded by the California Energy Commission, EDD and the California Workforce Investment Board last year. Out of 217 students who participated in the emerging industries program, she said about 40 percent were African American.
The program also works closely with Pacific Gateway Workforce Investment Board, the Port of Long Beach, the city’s Community Action Partnership, and the Conservation Corp.
She said there are also Green industry choices without heavy math, a subject that instills fear in new students. For students who may need extra help, the school offers basic skills remediation classes to get them ready for most technical courses.
“You don’t have to be a math genius, but you need to have a minimum of basic skills in reading, writing and math,” she said.
Halawanji also works with a program to help get African American students into engineering careers and study.
The 18-month Long Beach City College Clean Energy Workforce Training Program was funded by the American Recovery Act and has completed its first phase, but they are working with faculty to develop more short-term training classes and expect to expand into for-credit classes, she added.
“There are programs coming down the pipeline, and as these become available we know the majority of our participants will be employed,” she said.
For more information on clean energy training classes, call (562) 938-3140.
For GIS classes, see http://www.valleycollege.edu/Department/Academic/Geographic_info/