Job skills defined for fastest growing energy sector

OLYMPIA – To ensure that education and training in Washington’s community and technical colleges can keep pace with the skill needs of the fastest growing sector within the renewable energy industry in the U.S., the Power Generation Skill Standards — Wind Turbine Technician report is now available.
“Centralia College is honored to have supported the development of the wind turbine technician skill standards,” said Jim Walton, president of Centralia College. “Through Centralia College’s Center of Excellence for Energy Technology, we established collaborative relationships with industry, labor, other community and technical colleges, the WSU Extension Energy Program and other workforce development partners who worked together to make this project happen.”
He added that the result will be more responsive education and training programs that will benefit the industry, current workers and students who want to pursue energy careers.
Over the past year, the partnership oversaw the project, which included an extensive research process. It aimed to identify the skill requirements for wind turbine technicians, as defined by front-line workers themselves. Educators and industry trainers can respond by delivering a workforce prepared to address these challenges in Washington — which has the fourth largest installed wind capacity in the U.S.
Funding for the project was provided by the Center of Excellence for Energy Technology through the Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council and its Workforce In¬novation in Regional Economic Development Initiative, and by Energy Northwest and Montana State University.
 “The skill sets defined in the report are an important first step to help the education sector provide the specific training needs of this industry, where good fundamental skills, technical knowledge and a safe work environment are extremely important,” said Terry Meade, plant manager at Energy Northwest’s Nine Mile Canyon Wind Farm. “Energy Northwest was actively involved in the development of the skill standards, and we are looking forward to contributing further to use the standards to develop and maintain quality training programs.”
Other industry and labor partners who supported development of the wind technician skill standards include Puget Sound Energy, White Creek Wind, EnXco and the Washington State Labor Council. With support by PacificCorp and Vestas, industry partners completed surveys verifying that the standards reflect the requirements of the wind industry across the Pacific Northwest.
According to several members of the partnership, the impact of this collaborative effort will likely reach beyond the borders of Washington by providing a good foundation for developing national standards for the wind industry.
“The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 77 is proud to endorse the work done to accomplish a set of skill standards that will mean better prepared workers for the wind industry – regionally and nationally,” said Don Guillot, business manager for IBEW Local 77. “These standards will provide a solid basis for curriculum — and a state apprenticeship program — that will support high skills, good wages and promote safety for the wind industry and our members.”
Alan Hardcastle is a senior researcher at the WSU Extension Energy Program. He directed the development of the standards over the past year, and with research colleagues wrote the final report. “Industry and labor were actively engaged in this project from the beginning, and that says a great deal about the importance they attach to having a skilled workforce, including the key roles that our postsecondary education and workforce development partners need to play to support continued growth in renewable energy,” he said.
The Skill Standards for Wind Turbine Technicians report will be widely circulated in the relevant energy industry, labor and education communities. It is now available as a research report at: A printed version of the final report will be out early next year.

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