Posted on January 3, 2024
Embarking on a new career can be intimidating, but it can be considerably less scary if you know what to expect, and you can visualize a clear (and quick) path to getting there.
Take, for instance, work in wind energy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment of wind turbine technicians is projected to grow 45% between 2022 and 2032 — “much faster than the average for all occupations.”
The beauty of this field is that you can get the training to be a wind turbine technician in a short period, and the median pay, as of 2022, was $57,320 per year.
The future of wind energy work
We know the numbers, but what does the work look like? There is a project currently underway — the Dominion Coastal Vineyard Offshore Wind project (CVOW) — that is expected to be completed by 2026.
“It is the second offshore wind project in the country and will be the first owned by an electric utility company,” said Olivia Garret, New College Institute’s (NCI) director of institutional advancement.
The project has two working prototype wind turbines now, and manufacturing has begun on the 176 wind turbines that will generate 2.6 gigawatts of energy.
To add to that, there are also several other wind farms along the East Coast that are in the planning stages.
Off-shore wind turbine. (New College Institute)
Jonah Hudson, who took his basic technical training class and certifications at NCI, deployed in September to work on the country’s first full-scale commercial offshore wind project at Martha’s Vineyard, but he said he’s got the long-term plan in mind.
“(It’s) going to be a big 10 to 15 years’ worth of work,” Hudson said. “I’m trying to get on the beginning of it, get all the training (and) get ready for more and more jobs. The more training you have, the more valuable you are.”
There’s no doubt that wind energy and turbine work is a career field that’s bound for growth. If it’s one you’ve considered getting into, there are a few important things to know before you commit: Wind turbine technicians, in general, often work at great heights, outdoors and in confined spaces. It also requires a certain amount of training and certification.
Training and certification
One of the most attractive things about earning the training and certification to be a turbine technician is that it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Plus, there are no prerequisites required at NCI.
NCI’s classes are certified by the Global Wind Organisation (GWO), a nonprofit organization that’s founded and owned by globally leading wind turbine manufacturers, owners and operators to set industry-wide safety standards.
So, what does certified training at NCI consist of?
Garrett said the school offers three classes of training: Basic Safety with Sea Survival, Basic Technical and Advanced Rescue.
“Each class is about a week long,” she said. “The timeframe is dependent upon the number of classes taken and the class size. Some students may only need basic safety classes so they can go out to the turbine on a water vessel (this is typically folks who are not part of the turbine operation/maintenance), while others who are working on the turbine will need all the training.”
Garrett said for basic technical training, students will learn how to carry out basic electrical tasks, mechanical tasks and hydraulic tasks.
The electrical course gives students the knowledge and skills to carry out basic electrical tasks, and mechanical courses give participants the knowledge and skills to carry out basic mechanical tasks, all while using safe working procedures and the correct personal protective equipment (PPE). Students are supervised by an experienced technician. The same goes for hydraulic training, as well.
For basic safety training with sea survival, students will acquire basic knowledge and skills to enable them to safely work at heights.
The identification of PPE.
How to inspect, service, store and correctly fit relevant PPE.
How to use harnesses and identify anchor points.
How to approach rescue situations and use rescue equipment efficiently.
How to administer first aid.
How to perform manual handling tasks in a safe manner.
Fire awareness training.
“Students will learn how to act safely and responsibly and how to take preventive actions in all aspects of offshore operations from shore to installation vessel during normal operations, as well in an emergency situation,” Garrett said.
For advanced rescue training, students learn to perform entry-type injured person rescue operations using rescue equipment and rescue methods and techniques.
NCI training. (New College Institute)
While much of NCI’s training is done in an indoor class environment, there is a nearby quarry where students get unique and beneficial training on an outdoor model that simulates a real experience.
For Hudson, it took less than two months to complete all his training at NCI.
“The stuff here is world class, top-of-the-line equipment,” Hudson said.
Garrett said certification must be renewed every two years.
According to NCI, residents may be eligible for reduced rates for the GWO training courses.