Wind power made up 35.8% of Iowa’s generated electricity, from September 2015 to September 2016, making Iowa the leading U.S. state in wind power generation. As the wind industry continues its rapid growth, the demand for wind turbine technicians is booming. Graduates with an Associate’s Degree, are working in Iowa, and sometimes traveling the globe, as new wind turbine. With 75,000 jobs available, it is no surprise that the Bureau of Labor Statistics named wind turbine technician the fastest growing occupation, with projections for it to grow 100% over the next decade.
Wind turbine technicians can expect to make $55,000 to $90,000 a year with just a two-year degree. Luckily, one of the country’s largest training programs for wind turbines technicians is right here in Iowa.
So what is a Wind Turbine Technician?
According to Daniel Lutat, a wind technician is “basically a jack of all trades” As a technician you are maintaining everything from power generation systems to mechanical systems.
Technicians are involved in every part, from the construction and maintenance to post-warranty phase. Technicians really are full service maintenance guys. If you already work as a steel workers or oil worker a lot of the skills are transferable.
“When it comes to the turbine itself a lot of those skills are transferable it’s just a matter of getting someone in that’s willing to make that change and get used to the climbing. Once they learn what it’s like to work safely at heights they realize how similar the technology really is and they can take off with it,” says Lutat.
What about Women in the Industry?
“We do have women, and that’s something that I specifically like to talk about because this is what you would consider a gender non-traditional field.” The wind turbine technician field is making an effort to get more of that diverse thinking into their workforce and capitalize on those innovative perspectives.
What prerequisites do you need for the program?
All you need to start your education in the wind turbine technician field is a high school diploma along with a solid foundation in algebra and an understanding of basic physics.
“You’re dealing with everything from mechanical forces to electrical forces, and obviously that requires a good background in algebra, primarily because you’re using complex equations to solve those electrical issues when you troubleshoot,” says Daniel Lutat.
How much does the program cost?
The total program, including room and board, will cost you about $21,000, and scholarships and grants can lower that price tag.
Plus, if you’re considering Iowa Lakes they give about one million dollars in scholarships every year, making the degree and experience that much more attainable.
Another factor that can help offset this cost is internships – one of the main focuses of the Iowa Lakes program. These internships not only give students real world experience, but according to Lutat, some students have actually been able to earn enough money to pay for their entire college from just one internship.
“The dilemma that graduates have from these programs is that they have to choose which company to take a job with.”
– Daniel Lutat
What does job placement look like?
Daniel Lutat says, “job placement takes care of itself.” When students graduate with experience in such an in demand field like wind energy, global companies that need properly trained technicians are fighting over these students.
But not all programs are created equal. Some programs are designed for students that have prior industry experience in another field, but are looking to get some exposure to the turbines. Those are more academy-style approaches that are much shorter in duration. But programs like that at Iowa Lakes take the old-school approach that there is no shortcut to building a good technician.
“What you’re really looking at is making sure that you can get the right foundation, so that when you go out to work for these companies, they can polish you the rest of the way on the style of turbine that you’re going to work on,” says Lutat.
What about the future?
Projections say that by 2020, over 40% of Iowa’s energy will be from wind power. This is no surprise as wind energy has seen tremendous growth.
In addition to Iowa Lakes Community College, other schools in Iowa have Wind Energy Technician programs, including Southeastern Community College, Iowa Central Community College, and Des Moines Area Community College, and more.
Wind energy is a growing industry and needs turbine technicians to keep turbines up and running. Simply put the field of wind turbine technician blows the competition away for fastest growing job, and Iowa will continue to be a leader in both education and job creation.
Click here to listen to the entire interview with Daniel Lutat.