UC Berkeley to Partner With Singapore on Energy Research, Workforce Training

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Two major Singaporean entities have enlisted UC Berkeley's help in two separate projects starting this month - one to conduct energy research and the other to train members of the island nation's rapidly expanding workforce.

Singapore's National Trade Union Congress is sponsoring UC faculty to come overseas to train graduate students and those in the workforce, while Singapore's National Research Foundation is building two new "green" research laboratories, one which of which will be run by UC Berkeley's College of Engineering.

The NTUC's LearningHub program - which has grown from a single computer training center founded in 1982 to a large network of job training and vocational schools - hopes to incorporate a series of specialized programs taught by faculty from UC Berkeley's and UC Irvine's extension programs, including game design, engineering and cloud computing, into their offered courses.

LearningHub has trained about 700,000 workers who have joined nearly 10,000 organizations, according to the trade union congress' website. The program will first incorporate UC faculty through a workshop by UC Berkeley Extension instructor Ravi Jagannathan on Oct. 26 and 27.

While the UC system has often involved itself in international teaching exchanges in the past, the UC's integration into the LearningHub program provides an opportunity for a lasting partnership, said Dave Dimas, director of engineering, science and information technology in UC Irvine's Extension program.

"(Singapore) came to us because their constituency demanded it," Dimas said. "It's like a first date - you do what you can initially to get the ball rolling, and in this case that means making their educational processes stronger."

Dimas added that because of the indefinite nature of the program's longevity, the continued success of the program depends in part on preserving the UC's "brand" while simultaneously catering to the students' desires for specialized blue- and white-collar training.

In addition to government-funded teaching opportunities, UC Berkeley is also getting involved in international research efforts in Singapore, along with universities in Israel and China.

Singapore's National Research Foundation is currently funding a project run through the country's Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise program that will establish two new research laboratories on the island nation, bringing the total number of labs up to seven. One of these labs will be run by UC Berkeley in order to research energy efficiency and building sustainability.

The unique research conditions presented by Singapore's tropical climate provide brand new areas of study, according to Karen Rhodes, executive director for the UC Berkeley College of Engineering's marketing and communications office.

"Support from the NRF allows us to move forward with our research on energy consumption and try out some really innovative measures," she said. "This work has potentially global significance."

While the campaign for green energy and sustainability is steadily expanding in America, in Singapore the search for energy efficiency has much larger stakes, according to Rhodes.

"It has to do with the density of the population and the consequences of unchecked energy demand," she said. "Some of their energy is imported from outside (the country), and there are high costs associated with importing this much energy."

The program aims to cut energy usage by 80 percent for new buildings over the next five years through innovations at the lab, which is slated for completion next year.

Like the LearningHub program, the foundation's research project does not have a definite timeline beyond its initial five-year push. The continuation of both programs hinges on UC Berkeley's ability to deliver brand new services, according to Dimas.

"It's all about educational delivery," he said. "Singapore wants to stand a little bit more on the cutting edge of technology and they need some help getting there."


Contact True Shields at [email protected]

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