The Wind & Industrial program at Northeastern prepares students for careers in a variety of industries. The program began in 2009 with the help of our local wind companies to provide Wind technicians in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Kansas. The Wind industry has grown and the technology has advanced significantly since the program was started. Northeastern works hand-in-hand with the local wind sites adapting and constantly upgrading to match the needs of the industry. The college has a strong relationship with industry partners and meets with them regularly to improve the program.
Students find the courses fun, challenging, and rewarding. Students are drawn to the wind industry for its unique challenges and role in improving energy access. They are also extremely likely to step right into their new profession.
Upon completion of the certificates and/or Associate of Applied Science degree, students are well qualified for careers in many industries inside and outside power generation. The core electrical, mechanical, hydraulic/pneumatic, and system control skills allow students to pursue employment in advanced manufacturing, material or food processing, and industrial system repair.
The Wind & Industrial faculty have work experience that range from wind turbine repair and maintenance, wind site construction, industrial repair and maintenance, manufacturing and fabrication, programmable logic controller (PLC) integration, site safety lead, management, and team leadership. The instructors have brought that day-to-day work ethic and safety culture to the classroom.
The success of the students has been high, with most students getting jobs with the owner or operators of a wind site within a few weeks of graduation. Employers seek out our students because they recognize that they're getting the safety culture and knowledge they need to be quality technicians.
Our approach is simple; put the industry components, operating systems, and tools in the student’s hands and make sure they know how to solve problems. We use industry tooling such as Fluke meters and E-RADs to perform the same jobs that will be performed in the field. We believe that students must be able to apply what they have learned in the classroom to the real world. Our training approach accomplishes two things; it gives the students firsthand knowledge of the equipment they will be using and it teaches them how to safely and efficiently use the equipment. We have a strong safety culture and that is the single most important thing to take away from the program.
Wind turbine technicians often work at great heights. When a wind turbine is not functioning, technicians must find the problem and make the necessary repairs as quickly as possible. Wind turbine service technicians generally work outdoors, often at great heights and with a partner. To reach the mechanical equipment, workers must climb ladders—sometimes more than 260 feet tall—while wearing a fall protection harness and carrying tools. When maintaining mechanical systems, wind technicians work in the confined space of the nacelle. For major service or repairs, additional Wind Technicians and other specialists, such as electricians, may be needed to complete the job quickly. Wind Technicians often live and travel to rural areas, where many wind farms are located.
Wind turbine technicians held about 5,800 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of wind turbine technicians were as follows:
- Electric power generation 31%
- Repair and maintenance 23%
- Self-employed workers 17%
- Utility system construction 15%
- Professional, scientific, and technical services 5%
Work Schedules: Although the majority of Wind Technicians work full time, they may also be on call to handle emergencies during evenings and weekends.
Injuries and Illnesses:
Wind Technicians are exposed to hazards such as falling, falling tools, electrical shock and arc flash, and large rotating equipment. A Wind Technician wears a safety harness, hard hat, gloves, steel toed boots, safety glasses, arc flash resistant clothing. Wind Technicians use electrically insulated tools and equipment to minimize shock hazards. Soft muscle sprains and strains are the most common injury due to the strenuous nature of climbing and working in the wind turbine.
Wind Tech Freshman build the Christmas Float with the help of Auto, Diesel, and Welding students for the Parade of Lights.
Xcel Energy Colorado provides funding to support students starting the Wind & Industrial program. Xcel Energy Colorado funding provides personal protective equipment such as hard hats, Lineman gloves, and insulated hand tools.
Students are required to purchase steel-toe or composite-toe boots, work gloves, and safety glasses. Students are allowed bring their own hard hats if they prefer.
Wind technicians, on average start at $18-$22 an hour. The average work week is 50 hours and with overtime, it will average to $50,000 or more a year. The wind industry is growing and the demand for quality technicians is on the rise. In 2014, Colorado added over 400 wind turbines. The skills taught in the NJC Wind Program aren't just wind specific they will easily apply to any industrial maintenance or electrical profession.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of wind turbine technicians is projected to grow 44 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.
About 1,900 openings for wind turbine technicians are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median annual wage for wind turbine technicians was $56,260 in May 2021.