With wind turbines being installed faster than technicians can be trained to service them, the business of wind farm operation is labouring under an acute shortage of workers. Training programs have so far not been consistent, but that is about to change. A number of US community colleges, schools typically focused on technical and trade education, have heard the call for technicians.
"We are trying desperately to increase the number of graduates," says Susan J Wolff of Columbia Gorge Community College, which offers training for operation and maintenance technicians. Wolff says there are around 18 colleges and technical schools across the US with similar curriculums. She expects the American Wind Energy Association to establish an accreditation system.
One challenge for wind farm operators is that most projects are in remote regions unable to retain operation and maintenance technicians for long. For this reason, Wolff says the wind industry must focus its training efforts on communities in areas where the most wind development is taking place. "We will not have good quality students if we do not have a pipeline from kindergarten through to twelfth grade," she says.
"It is very important for all who are involved in the wind industry to work with local school districts because, too often, they are coming out of school with very little math skills, they are not coming out with any computer skills, and most high schools do not have what we used to call shop programs anymore," she adds.