Their is huge potential for employment in the renewable energy industry but the issue is of skilled work force availability. What do you think shall be done to meet the growing need of renewable energy professionals?
There are a lot of qualified people trying to get into the Wind Power Industry, but there seem to be too many road blocks preventing them.
The range of skills needed is much wide:
The range goes from theoretical/simulation design work and control signal processing development, aerodynamic blade design, advanced gearbox and generator/inverter design all the way to lightning protection and manufacture of metal casting of very large parts. It is a pyramid where it does not take many theoreticians but an increasing number of lesser skilled folk. Often the theoretical parts are handled by wind experienced consultants that move about.
Here is what some people say about the problem with the lack of renewable energy professionals.
Recruiter at Solus Technical Resources:
As a telecommunications staffing agency, we are always looking at ways to diversify our industry portfolio, and have done significant research into the parallels with the skill sets of our technicians and wind energy technicians. We have numerous technicians who work both in the telecommunications sector as well as the wind energy field.
The hardest thing that we have found is getting wind energy companies to see the potential in our technicians. Majority of our technicians are proficient with power installs (power plant, battery back-up, DC and AC), fiber, site survey work, preventative maintenance, etc…
Project Manager for Texas Wind Energy Institute at Texas State Technical College:
The Texas Workforce Commission has awarded $1M grant for Texas Tech and Texas State Technical College to develop a partnership and create the Texas Wind Energy Institute. One of our primary goals is bridge the gap between our two year degree and TTU’s four year degree (to be developed). Currently, TSTC has two certificates and an AAS for a Wind Energy Technician. TTU already has a PhD program in place but it is mostly related to wind in general…wind energy, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. Through the grant we are working on developing a bachelor and masters certificate and degree program (both traditional and distant learning) at TTU which will hopefully address both the managerial side as well as the technical side.
TSTC has a prime directive to train the workforce so we are working on establishing agreements with other community colleges to address the gap in technicians in the workforce. As it currently stands, our enrollment in wind will double from Fall 2008 to Spring 2009 (107 students w/5 graduating to 200+). Additionally, there are several other community colleges starting their programs and I would like to see a general cooperation among them all to put out a standard curriculum to the student so industry knows what they are getting from someone with a cert1, cert 2 or AAS in wind energy. Hopefully, this all leads to a skills based model for pay when it comes to the techs.
The Institute is also working with industry to provide a validated safety course directed at wind and incorporate it into our program. Our goal is to provide the necessary training in safety which will capture all issues prevalent in the wind community such as confined space, LOTO, NFPA, CPR, etc.
We will soon be submitting a white paper to the AWEA Education working group to work that end (Michelle Montague mentioned it above). The grant was awarded 9/1/08 and we have accomplished so much in a short time (established an Industrial Advisory Board, a website, outreach materials,etc) but there is still so much to do. Keep the discussion up…this is an extremely good topic and I want to hear more from everyone.
Technology Marketing and Sales Professional:
I am a product and business development professional from the IT industry. I have been interested in a career change to the wind or solar industry. Recruiters often say that they are exlusively intersted in wind or solar professionals but they obviously have a hard time finding candidates without preying on already employed ones.
I have witnessed this in the IT crunch in the late 90s and I have seen the dammage it did to the companies that stuck to these policies: salary inflation and quick rise of young executives lacking general business experience to top positions, eventually contributing to a sectorial collapse in 2002.
I have explored the academic offerings to add some wind and solar skills to my profile. Very little is available already in the way of real academic programs covering hard skills necessary to engineers and operational leaders in wind and solar (turbine, blade and PV engineering, renewables law, real estate, policy relations, etc.).
Do you think that the industry will hit a point where it will have to hire outsiders? Do you think it will hire laterally? or new grads and train them? or else?
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