Planting C3E Seeds in Colorado

C3E Women in Clean Energy winner uses prize money to create a grassroots model for spreading the international and national mission for C3E.

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2012 C3E Award Winner Judy Dorsey

When Judy Dorsey won the U.S. Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) program’s Women in Clean Energy award at the inaugural symposium in September 2012, she knew she needed to do something with the $10,000 cash prize that would help spread the mission of C3E.

“The C3E symposium really opened my eyes a lot more to the issues surrounding energy poverty in the world and how women are the hardest hit by that,” says Dorsey, founder of the energy engineering firm The Brendle Group. “I also really believe we need more women in the STEM careers of science, technology, engineering and math; and energy is a compelling and interesting way to engage women in these because of the ties to the human condition and some of the broader topics that women bring toward broader global social issues.”

At the time of the award, Dorsey was one of the only women on the board of the Colorado Clean Energy Cluster (CCEC), giving her firsthand experience of what it is like to be a woman in the energy field today.

“I had been in the trenches, experiencing some of the reasons why we need to advance women in clean energy, so I could relate to why this is an important issue to address more systemically,” says Dorsey, who won the award in the Entrepreneurship and Innovative Business Models category. “Given the category I won the award in, I thought, ‘What would a good entrepreneur do with this money?’ So I decided to use it as seed capital to grow into a much larger enterprise. I wanted to tap what is happening at the international and national levels and apply it to Colorado to address the women in energy workforce at a local level.”

Dorsey started the Colorado C3E Initiative last October – about a year after receiving the award. It is being administered by the CCEC, of which she is now executive director.  The original $10,000 from the C3E program was matched locally by the Woodward manufacturing company and Colorado State University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. Now with $25,000 in seed funding, Dorsey and her team are working on concentrated projects to bring more women into the field of energy. She plans to do this by tackling the challenge on both the supply and demand side – identifying gaps and obstacles for both women and employers.

“Giving women empowerment and educational tools is one necessary step to combat this challenge,” Dorsey says. “But we won't be successful if we don’t also look at driving demand for more women in clean energy and helping employers meet that demand.”

To accomplish this, Dorsey and her team are surveying clean energy employers who have expressed that they’re having trouble meeting diversity goals. They’re asking these employers: What are the skills you need? And where are the gaps where you're finding women underrepresented?

Once they’ve collected this information, they  plan to do an inventory of the workforce development services in the region to identify gaps and help provide matchmaking between employers and workforce development service providers.

“We want to be this agent for change that drives demand for women in clean energy, not just the supply of women in clean energy,” Dorsey says.

Developing the educational pathways that will lead to real jobs with local employers is another important focus area for Dorsey. That’s why the group will work closely with local community colleges, Colorado State University and local trade groups to develop an energy career track for women in construction and manufacturing. As part of this effort, the Colorado C3E Initiative will support a $2,500 scholarship for a mechanical engineering student at Colorado State.

Dorsey also hopes to help women veterans returning from active duty. The Initiative has proposed to support a CleanTech Industry Awareness program to help place returning veterans into clean energy jobs in the state.

Overall, Dorsey says she wants the Colorado C3E Initiative to be a model that others can replicate.

“We’re happy to be a test case and hopefully spur others to replicate our model and bring it to scale for other states or more grassroots communities,” Dorsey says.

With time, Dorsey hopes to raise $100,000 for the Initiative, and businesses and potential investors are already stepping forward.

Learn more about the Colorado C3E Initiative: http://coloradocleanenergy.com/initiatives/C3E