Magazine article Techniques

The Technician beneath Our Wings or Is That Blades?

Magazine article Techniques

The Technician beneath Our Wings or Is That Blades?

Article excerpt

Today's trained technicians in alternative energy fields are finding even more career opportunities open to them as the United States and the world turn to green technology to power their homes and businesses. Wisconsin's Gateway Technical College is preparing students for those new and emerging "green collar" careers. Gateway has taken a leadership position in training for geo-exchange heating and cooling systems, the wind power industry, sustainable energy systems and fresh water resources. In each case, Gateway has found an area of the career with training needs--and found a way to address it. As an example, Gateway's torque and geoexchange drilling training was found to be a skill in demand. After Gateway finalizes development of the program, it will be shared across the nation through national curriculum development and training of other instructors.

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Gateway's Wind Energy courses are another example of green career development. These courses follow Wisconsin Technical College System-approved curriculum and core competencies, giving students a foundation for future training and career development. Students receive training in wind theory, energy of wind, turbine siting, technology, design and construction of large and small wind turbines. From there, they can focus their education and training, through Gateway Technical College, on the skills that best meet their career goals.

"The intention of this program is to give students some understanding and knowledge about the wind industry and then explain to them some of the specific career paths available to them," says Gateway Technical College Wind Energy instructor Bob Braun.

Braun says because of the emerging nature of the wind industry, career paths are less clear than more traditional careers--but points out that that may mean even more opportunities in the near future in the years that lay ahead.

"Those career paths are becoming more defined as the industry grows," says Braun. "We are identifying those career paths which best prepare our students for the job market."

Braun points out the wind industry requires a variety of skills. Large wind projects often need a larger team of technicians with specific areas of expertise. Technicians in torque, hydraulics, pneumatics, programmable logic control, engineering, construction and even marketing are needed to create, build and maintain wind energy projects. Small wind systems typically require a small team of individuals with a broad base of skills. The entry-level technician will likely be required to climb turbine towers that are 250 feet high, so safety and climbing are of utmost importance.

Assessing Skill Competencies

NOCTI (formerly the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute) sensed the industry's need to be able to adequately assess the overall skills of an individual either starting a program as a wind technician or completing a training program as a wind technician. NOCTI assessed the needs of the education field and began a dialogue with a variety of industry resources including AWEA (American Wind Energy Association).

NOCTI began to participate with AWEA's education working group, and AWEA was able to help NOCTI locate subject matter experts from a variety of educational institutions and industry in the United States and Canada; the experts could work as a team to develop an assessment that would be reflective of the current, knowledge of the field, and measure the competencies needed by an entry-level wind turbine technician. …

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