Students “ACE” the conservation test

Students in Ontario high schools are now preparing for the energy workforce and helping build a culture of conservation thanks to a pilot known as the Ambassadors for Conservation of Energy (ACE).

Students at Westlane Secondary School in Niagara Falls learn about solar panel installation.
Students at Westlane Secondary School in Niagara Falls learn about solar panel installation.

ACE was designed as a co-op program that allows students to explore the broad energy sector through science and technology courses that focus on energy production, renewable energy sources, and conservation.

Funded in part by the Ontario Power Authority’s Conservation Fund, the program was first introduced as a pilot in 2009 with the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN).

“The energy sector is a fast growing sector so we wanted to give students a head start,” said Roy Smith, technology teacher at Westlane Secondary School in Niagara Falls; one of the schools that took part in the ACE pilot. “This is a much more interactive, more hands-on system.”

The school has recently installed 15 roof-top solar panels that deliver clean electricity to the school’s electric technology classroom. Smith says that the panels allow students to learn more about solar energy and panel installation and design, while providing power to charge items like shop tools, electronics, and even a freezer.

The ACE pilot is now being continued through the province’s Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program in energy, which helps students focus on a career path that matches their skills and interests. SHSM has since rolled out across Ontario.

Courses in the basics of electricity and wiring, electrical engineering technology, and efficiency endeavours including energy audits and retrofitting are just a few examples of new learning opportunities now offered. This specialized training has support from a number of businesses and organizations, including local distribution companies (LDCs) and post-secondary institutions.

A number of students graduating from Westlane since 2010 have moved on to study energy-related careers at Ontario colleges and universities and have started apprenticeships in the electrical field.