Welcome to week three of Energy Action Month! Join us to continue learning about Wisconsin's path to carbon-free electricity generation. Did you know most Americans favor expanding renewable sources to produce energy? A 2016 poll conducted by the PEW Research Center showed 89% of Americans favor more solar panel farms and 83% favor more wind turbine farms. It appears people do care about how the utilities generate the electricity they consume. However, another critical step toward achieving Wisconsin's carbon-free electricity goal is making sure the clean energy Wisconsin produces reaches its consumers. That is why the electric power distribution workforce is the focus for this week's Energy Action Month post from the Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP) and Slipstream.
Most people don't put much thought into how the electricity they use reaches them until something disrupts the process. The disruption may be high winds, a flood, overuse of the grid or even a traffic accident. We are fortunate for the people who devote their careers to making sure the power comes back on for all of us.
Weston Arndt is one of those people. Weston is an electric superintendent for New Richmond Utilities. His job is to coordinate work for field crews, make sure field crews have the supplies they need and follow safety protocols. Weston shared, "It's very rewarding when our crews go out and assist with restoring power after a hurricane or ice storm, whether that's within our community or across the state or the country."
Similar to an electric superintendent, an electric lineworker also takes pride in ensuring electricity flows into all homes, businesses and other facilities in their service area. Darren O' Flanagan is a journeyman lineworker for New Richmond Utilities. Darren was looking for a career in energy that did not require a college degree, so he attended Dakota County Technical College and New Richmond Utilities hired him. He participated in a four-year apprenticeship program that included on-the-job training to become a journeyman. Darren enjoys working outdoors to bring or restore power to consumers and appreciates he can make a great living doing something he loves.
Both Weston and Darren shared there are many skills needed to succeed in a career related to electrical power distribution. Workers need technical, science, number and problem-solving skills. In addition, Weston and Darren shared that people interested in the electrical power distribution workforce need to be detail-oriented, adaptable, and willing to learn.
Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC), like many other technical colleges in Wisconsin, is a great place for students to develop many of these skills while receiving specific, job-related training. Bandi Henke, an electrical power distribution instructor at CVTC, shared motivated students finish the CVTC Electric Power Distribution program in nine months, ready to assume roles as apprentice lineworkers, underground line installers or tree trimmers (line clearance). He said students engage in theory in a classroom setting during the program before participating in either the indoor high voltage hot lab or outdoor labs to climb poles and work on distribution structures.
Adam Wheling, Dean of Agriculture, Energy, Construction and Transportation at CVTC, shared the scope of work related to the clean energy industry is much larger than most people think. Careers supporting the Electric Power Distribution Program and other occupations in clean energy are in high demand and high-wage positions. Adam indicated the Wisconsin Technical College System works closely with businesses in the community and across Wisconsin. Technical colleges offer programs where employers have indicated a need for workers in that field. For Wisconsin to successfully reach its 2050 carbon-free electricity goal, it will need students to pursue careers in clean energy, specifically in electrical power distribution.
It's your turn!
Engage at School!
- Learn more by watching Utility Careers Featuring an Electric Superintendent and a Lineworker and Exploring the Chippewa Valley Technical College's Electric Power Distribution Program from Slipstream's Clean Energy Careers video series.
- Investigate the Chippewa Valley Technical College's Electric Power Distribution Program.
- Explore Clean Energy Career Maps from IREC, including Green Buildings, Solar & Climate Control Technology (HVAC/R).
- After watching the videos, complete the Clean Energy Careers Worksheet and the Clean Energy Careers – Chippewa Valley Technical College Worksheet from KEEP.
Engage at home, work and in your community!
- Learn more about the energy degree programs and training available through Wisconsin's Technical College System.
Join KEEP and Slipstream next week as we wrap up Energy Action Month with an investigation into how clean energy is the backbone of one of Wisconsin's health care system's facilities management.
Learn more at www.KEEPprogram.org.