Trainees today, trainers tomorrow: the future of the wind industry

Jobs are a hot topic in today’s political landscape, and the wind industry proudly hosts the country’s fastest growing profession: wind turbine technician.

The outlook for “tower monkeys,” as they are colloquially known, is bright—the field will grow 108 percent over the next decade according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That number was high on everyone’s minds when I recently visited the Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC) Wind Turbine Technician Academy in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Led by wind industry professional Tom Sutton, the Wind Turbine Technician Academy at KVCC exposes its students to the wide variety of subject material necessary to succeed as a wind turbine technician. The theory of wind energy, turbine safety procedures, computer skills and electrical programming are just a few of the units students learn. After an afternoon of touring the campus, I was overwhelmed by both the breadth of knowledge taught as well as the intensity with which the program is conducted.

A mere 12 students are accepted into the program each term, and they graduate after 24 weeks from one of the most renowned wind turbine technician academies in the country. Because of this unique background, the majority of graduates are fast-tracked into the professional world and secure employment before they even graduate.

However, getting to that point is a huge undertaking in and of itself– as a former physics teaching assistant the majority of the electrical and mechanical topics the students are expected to master were beyond my grasp! This program – and wind turbine technician academies across the country – is incredibly difficult but also highly rewarding. It’s that combination that draws people from across the world to become wind techs.

I cannot thank the students and instructors at the KVCC Wind Turbine Technician Academy enough for their warmth and welcoming spirit, and I would encourage everyone to learn more about our industry colleagues on the ground (or up-tower). Current and future tower monkeys are the individuals who ensure that our turbines are reliable and effective, and the knowledge it takes to do such a job is simply amazing.

To check out a day in the life of a KVCC student, watch this video: