The entire nation is experiencing hard economic times resulting in widespread job loss. The unemployment rate reached a 25-year high in March 2009, an astounding 8.5 percent. This brings the net total of eliminated jobs to 663,000 and nearly all economists expect the job cuts to continue for much of the year. Since the recession began in December 2007, the net total job loss has reached 5.1 million, 2/3 of which were in the last 5 months. Even more employees have been forced to work part time for economic reasons.

As government and businesses look toward shaping a stronger economic future, there is a strong emphasis on “green-collar jobs” in the emerging green energy sector. President Obama is dedicated to creating 5 million green-collar jobs in the next decade. The economic stimulus package passed in February is estimated to create 3.6 million of these jobs by 2010.

Given the outlook on millions of new jobs in the sector, countless unemployed workers hit hard by the financial crisis are choosing to head back to the classroom to hone their skills and many are opting for an education in the green energy sector.

In the wind industry, the demand for highly skilled workers who can build and service wind turbines is increasing. However, the workforce needs to be prepared and colleges are modernizing curricula and creating wind turbine technology training programs to meet the growing demand.

Although educational opportunities for turbine technician technicians are offered in 22 states, Iowa Lakes Community College, in Estherville, Iowa, has one of the most well-recognized wind turbine technology programs in the country. Iowa Lakes Community College offers a program in Wind Energy & Turbine Technology. This 2-year program is the first of its kind in Iowa to train students on the construction, operation and maintenance of wind turbines. Graduates enter the job market with the necessary qualifications for many entry-level wind turbine technician positions. Exceptions graduates may also possess the skills and educational background to become wind plant operators and supervisors.

To provide the further resources to aid students’ success in the program, the campus expanded by developing a $550,000 and 6,200 square foot addition to provide more space in the Sustainable Energy Education Center/Wind Energy building on the Estherville campus. “The new addition will serve as a model for consumers and the industry, allowing Iowa Lakes to accept 32 additional freshmen students into this ever-popular program,” said Valerie Newhouse, College President.

Cero Coso Community College in California, meanwhile, is one of the few colleges to offer a short-term “Wind Technician Boot Camp.” The 8-week program is offered at the college in the Eastern Sierra region of Southern California. The program prepares students through a wide variety of courses in turbine engineering, safety and prevention, and by providing resume and job interview preparation. Students graduating from this program will receive an Energy Technician Certificate.

For more information on other wind energy training programs across the country, including locations, enrollment opportunities, and course specifics, see http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/schools_training.asp.

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