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Wind Energy Education

posted on November 10, 2007 at 4:28 PM


Ideally located in Iowa's windy northwest, Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville, is helping the growing workforce needs of the wind energy industry. The college developed one of the first training programs of its kind in the nation. Meeting the needs of students, enrollment in the Wind Energy and Turbine Technology two-year degree program, has grown rapidly.

The demand for training reflects the quality and availability of job opportunities. Graduates of the program are paid a starting salary of between 17 and 20 dollars an hour with competitive benefits.

Having the technical training necessary to work in the wind energy industry is creating jobs that require higher skill levels, making them less likely to be shipped overseas.

Valerie Newhouse, Executive Vice President, Iowa Lakes Community College: You can look along the landscape anywhere and you'll see wind turbines popping up. With these turbines comes the need for the trained technicians to work in wind farms. Community Colleges in general are very reactive to industry needs and job needs.

Narrator: Ideally located in Iowa’s windy northwest, Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville, is helping meet these growing workforce needs. The college developed one of the first training programs of its kind in the nation. Meeting the needs of students', enrollment in the Wind Energy and Turbine Technology two-year degree program, has grown rapidly.

Alden Zeitz, Wind Energy Instructor, Iowa Lakes Community College: We started in fall of 2004 with 15 students and then now currently we have 66 students in the program. Many of the students have three or four job offers before they even graduate.

Alden Zeitz: What's interesting about the growth of our program is that we're doing very little recruiting, actually. It's been word of mouth and coming from the industries. Students are seeking jobs or they're talking to members of the industry and industry is pointing them towards us and telling them to come here. Geographically we have students that are from the east coast, west coast, from down south, but the majority of our students are here from the Midwest - Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota.

Valerie Newhouse: The students are not typically all high school graduate age groups. Many of them are more non-traditional -- they're a little bit older. They've experienced maybe part of a career already and are looking at this industry as being one that's going to be growing and expanding and offer them something.

Narrator: The demand for training reflects the availability and quality of job opportunities. Graduates of the program are paid a starting salary of between 17 and 20 dollars an hour with competitive benefits.

Valerie Newhouse: We're meeting the needs of students because it's a high paying position when you consider the two year investment that they have but we're also meeting the needs of the industry.

Alden Zeitz: Our training is very hands-on oriented. That's one of the great things about our program is that we own and operate our own multi mega-watt wind turbine.

Narrator: One of the unique aspects of the Iowa Lakes Community College program is that the training is specifically focused on wind turbines.

Alden Zeitz: No matter when we're talking about electrical, we're talking about mechanics, hydraulics… it all focuses on the wind turbines.

Alden Zeitz: Wind turbines are very complex. They don't appear to be complex from the outside, but they really truly are. Staying on top of the advances and technology really is key to making this industry survive and expand. Manufacturing for the wind industry is much more technical than maybe some other industries out there, where they're putting parts and pieces together and shipping them out.

Narrator: Having the technical training necessary to work in the wind energy industry is creating jobs that require higher skill levels, making them less likely to be shipped overseas.

Alden Zeitz: When our students are ready to leave the program after graduation, the jobs that are waiting for them out there are very plentiful. There are many jobs right here in Iowa for students to stay and work.

Tags: alternative energy colleges community colleges education Energy/Environment Estherville HEAT industry Iowa jobs students technology wind power

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