Excelsior College was awarded nearly a nearly $865,000 grant by the National Science Foundation to develop simulators that will prepare students to be high-skilled technicians in the energy, nuclear and manufacturing industries.

An Excelsior College bumper sticker on a car near Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. Excelsior, an IBEW education partner, is based in Albany, N.Y.

Excelsior is an educational partner of the IBEW. Michael Johnson, Excelsior’s associate dean of technology, said simulators are increasingly popular with younger students who have grown up with high-level video games and other computer simulations and with potential employers who are limiting apprentices’ time on jobsites due to safety concerns and the rising cost of insurance.

“I think [the foundation] understands that simulators are the next generation’s ability to learn the electrical trade,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the school also consulted with Exelon and Entergy, which both employ IBEW members, before submitting its grant application.

The simulators will be incorporated into Excelsior’s associate-level degree courses in the nuclear, electronic and electromechanical concentrations. 

“With simulations, you can repeat an exercise until a student understands it,” Johnson said. “You can give them immediate feedback.”

Excelsior officials hope the grant makes electrical education more accessible to traditionally underrepresented groups, especially during the ongoing skilled labor shortage, he said.

“The nuclear energy industry requires skills closely matched to military nuclear training and this project will help service members and veterans enter high-paying civilian careers,” Johnson said.

Excelsior’s programs are offered entirely online and IBEW members may be able to use their work experience toward credits and for a reduction in tuition. Call (800) 896-1632 or visit ibew.excelsior.edu for information.

“The IBEW has had a long-standing relationship with Excelsior because it allows members who want to supplement their education to do so at a reasonable cost and on a schedule that fits their needs,” said Anna Jerry, an international representative in the Utility Department. “We are pleased to learn of initiatives that strengthen its already strong curriculum and makes our partnership even better.”