If America is to transition to an economy based on renewable energy, it will need skilled workers to design, build, and install the systems needed to make that promise a reality. You don’t just fall out of bed one morning and say, “I’m tired of flipping burgers. Today, I will build solar power plants or wind farms.” There’s a little more to it than that.
In Michigan, the Power for America Training Trust Fund and the Utility Workers Union of America have created an apprenticeship program that provides advanced training in the skills needed to find employment in the renewable energy sector, which includes both offshore and onshore wind, solar generation, and battery storage.
Once the 2.5-year long apprenticeship is completed, the trainees are guaranteed a job with Consumers Energy, one of Michigan’s largest utility companies. The apprentice program has been designed in cooperation with the US Department of Labor.
“These are the jobs of the future and if we’re going to remain on the cutting edge of the energy industry, the skills we teach must reflect those of the ever-changing energy industry,” Jon Harmon, executive director of Power For America, tells Renewable Energy Magazine. “This important program taps into P4A’s decade of success training and placing individuals in high skilled positions that allow them to stand out in the workplace and be placed in good, family-supporting jobs.”
The earn-while-you-learn apprenticeship program meets a growing demand from renewable energy companies for highly-skilled individuals. The industry is expected to double over the next decade, creating thousands of employment opportunities for skilled workers.
While many community colleges offer similar training programs, the Power For America and UWUA apprenticeship program offers on-the-job experience together with the ability to earn a salary and benefits from the very first day.
“The members who successfully move through this important program are a triple-threat within the renewable energy industry,” says James Slevin, UWUA president. “Armed with the know-how to move seamlessly between wind, solar and battery storage facilities, their skill sets will continue to be in demand for a long time to come.”
Brian Zatloukal, renewables operations and maintenance manager for Consumers Energy, says, “We continue to be impressed by those P4A-trained individuals, specifically with their preparedness to maintain and operate these facilities and the depth of their expertise once they enter the workforce. We look forward to this continued partnership.”
Power For America is seeking to form similar partnerships with other companies in the renewable energy sector in the coming years as more of them seek to fill these kinds of highly skilled and well paid positions.
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