Economic Benefits

America needs legislators to support the country’s fastest growing job

Wind power suppports America's fastest growing job, wind turbine technician.
America needs legislators to support the country’s fastest growing job

This post originally appeared in The Hill.

Most Americans strive to put in an honest day’s work so they can pay their bills and put food on the table for their families.

American wind power is creating more opportunities for them to do so, while also working in a rewarding—and sustainable—career.

It’s clear the wind industry is picking up. Wind turbine technician is the fastest growing job in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The wind tech profession is projected to grow by 108 percent over the next 10 years, more than twice as much as the next-fastest growing job, occupational therapy assistant. And, with this increased demand that has shown no signs of slowing, it’s difficult to fill these job openings fast enough.

This employment demand is primarily driven by wind power’s near-record growth over the past few years. Wind power now produces enough electricity for 20 million American homes, and the U.S. generated more electricity from wind than any other country in 2015. This growth is made possible by advances in American manufacturing and innovation, which have dropped wind’s costs by two-thirds in just six years, making it more cost-competitive.

This American success story is in large part due to production-based federal policy supported by both Republicans and Democrats. It’s a great example of a bipartisan collaboration, and a legacy this Congress should be proud of. To keep this success story going, we need legislators to continue to support homegrown, well-paying jobs like these.

Those in other industries dealing with change, like coal power or the rail industry, should know their skills translate well to the wind turbine technician job. Many workers with backgrounds in electrical mechanics would also find a transition to the wind turbine technician applicable. From construction and food service to automotive and military, I’ve had students come from just about every possible background and thrive in a wind career.

Schools that provide training and education in renewable energy, such Ecotech Institute in Denver, have a variety of programs students can enter and learn the skills they need to join the rapidly-growing clean energy economy. With a placement rate well over 70 percent, and most students securing jobs before graduation, my students are making a strong investment in their futures. Simply put, the wind program at Ecotech Institute can’t keep up with demand from employers—which is great news for those considering a job in this industry.

Our wind turbine technology program provides hands-on training and prepares our graduates to perform highly technical roles using the equipment they will use in the field, including a climbing tower. By the time they graduate, students are equipped to work in this dynamic industry, and ready to meet today and tomorrow’s energy industry needs.

A lot of young workers in the U.S., especially in rural communities, often worry that they must leave their community in order to find a job that will pay enough to raise a family. With the wind industry’s rapid expansion, individuals with these in-demand skills have an opportunity to find satisfying work without having to travel far from home. Nationwide, wind power supports more jobs than ever before. After a 20 percent growth last year, wind power supports 88,000 jobs across all 50 states, including wind-industry related manufacturing and construction jobs.

Looking ahead, the Department of Energy says wind power could grow to supply 20 percent of U.S. electricity demand by 2030, up from nearly five percent of electricity today, creating 380,000 jobs along the way.

In order to sustain this job growth, elected officials need to support American wind power—which has the potential to positively impact not only the economy, but also the environment.

Economic Benefits

Auston Van Slyke is the program director for the wind energy technology program at Ecotech Institute. Van Slyke has been with the school since 2011 and has taught wind turbine fundamentals, wind turbine systems, troubleshooting, fluid power, wind safety and industrial and residential wiring. Prior to joining Ecotech Institute, Van Slyke served as a Staff Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, where he specialized in communication and weapon systems upgrades to AV-8B Harrier jets. He was later employed by Vestas, a global energy company dedicated exclusively to wind energy, and traveled the U.S. and Canada working on the world's largest turbines. Van Slyke studied computer and electronics engineering technology at ITT Tech, as well as business at the University of Phoenix and Kaplan University.

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