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Employers Need Wind Power Technicians 170

Posted by timothy
from the robot-surgeon-also-viable dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "NPR reports that Oklahoma is one state benefitting from the energy boom. With a wind power rush underway, companies are competing to secure the windiest spots, while breathing life into small towns. The problem is, each turbine requires regular maintenance during its 20-year lifespan, with a requirement of one turbine technician for every 10 turbines on the ground. So even with a job that can pay a good starting salary (for technicians with a GED or high school diploma who complete a four-week turbine maintenance training program), there aren't enough qualified technicians to do the work. 'It seems odd, with America's unemployment problem, to have a shortage of workers for a job that can pay in excess of $20 per hour. But being a turbine technician isn't easy,' says Logan Layden, adding that technicians typically have to climb 300 foot high towers to service the turbines. Oscar Briones is one of about a dozen students who recently finished a maintenance training program after leaving his job as a motorcycle mechanic and now has his pick of employers. 'So I was in the market to find something else to do, and this seemed pretty exciting. Being 300 feet in the air, that's pretty exciting in its self. So yeah, I'm a thrill seeker.'"
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Employers Need Wind Power Technicians

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  • Oh please (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sunking2 (521698) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @10:34AM (#39311323)
    If heights is the reason for the lack of people then we have really lost our way. Reference the pictures of the guys building the Empire State Building, are they saying we couldn't get people to do that now? The reality here is either you have an industry that is too new and unorganized, a union that is putting a choke holds on the labor pool, or some other dumb ass bureaucratic reason that is making the country noncompetitive.
    • Re:Oh please (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cptdondo (59460) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @10:47AM (#39311385) Journal

      Ever done manual labor?

      Climb up a 300' tower with tools?

      I work in a manual labor industry. It's no joke. These guys and gals work hard, and it's not an easy job. The only time you see them is when it's sunny and nice, because that's when you're out walking your dog. How about when it's 31 degrees, freezing rain, and you're knee deep in freezing water? For an 8 hour shift? You're not out there because it's too miserable; you're at home under the blanket watching TV. They're out there working.

      Try getting out there, and working at the top of even a 60' bucket truck, in high wind. Now try it at the top of a 300' tower, in freezing cold wind.

      If these were union jobs, they'd be going for $40+. The $20/hour thing tells me they're not union.

      • Re:Oh please (Score:4, Insightful)

        by data2 (1382587) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @10:49AM (#39311407)

        It's a question of the size of turbine. The bigger ones have work benches and everything in the _rooms_ at the top of the towers.

        • by cptdondo (59460)

          I've never been up a wind turbine tower; I've been up inside water towers. Even out of the wind, you're surrounded by cold steel and it gets downright miserable even after a short while. It just sucks the heat out you.

          • by rrohbeck (944847)

            Umm... Clothing? Gloves?

          • Re:Oh please (Score:4, Informative)

            by rtb61 (674572) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @02:45AM (#39316527) Homepage

            Worse when some shit eating ass hat in an office decides it's a one person job. Even the smallest accident can be life threatening, when you have no one to help. Yeah, terrible Unions making sure enough people are employed to improve safety, that wages reflect effort and risk and age limitations. Those greedy evil unions they just don't appreciate a percentage of workers have to die every year to maintain higher corporate profits.

      • Re:Oh please (Score:5, Insightful)

        by liquidpele (663430) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @02:31PM (#39312881) Journal
        Exactly. I'm sick of industries whining about labor shortages instead of raising the fucking pay.
        • by Skapare (16644)

          Why should they raise the pay of workers when they can raise the payoffs to Congress to get them to vote in more overseas cheap labor ... and get a golf buddy at the same time. One stone, two birds, FTW!

      • by Skapare (16644)

        The $20/hour tells me their employers think they can offshore these jobs and are just making some whine so they can beg the government to let them import workers.

        Pay $50/hr and they will come.

      • Re:Oh please (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ayjay29 (144994) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @07:07PM (#39314619)

        I was at an open day at a wind turbine. They had a small cage lift that could take two people at a time to the top, it took a long time, and there were a few people in the queue. As a joke I asked the operator "Can I climb up the ladder? it will be quicker!". Instead of saying "No, don't be stupid!" he handed me a harness and said "Of course! Go ahead...". Not being one to turn down a challenge I put the harness on, cliped in, and headed up the ladder. It was hard work, and I was not carrying any tools. It was also a bit scary.

        I'd take that job. The climb to work is good excercise, and the view from the top is amazing.

        • They opened up a large farm of wind turbines about 40 miles east of my house. My brother-in-law helped build them. I'm thinking I'll look into this as a career change, since a) it's closer than my current job by 310 miles, and b) it's gotta beat sitting on my ass all day in front of a computer screen until I can go to the gym to get in a work-out. Doesn't hurt that there's a degree of "thrill" to it, as well.

    • Re:Oh please (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Pinky's Brain (1158667) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @10:49AM (#39311403)

      You need to turn your bullshit filter on ... what they say there is a lack of workers, what they mean is they don't really want to pay 20$ an hour.

      • by Nidi62 (1525137)

        You need to turn your bullshit filter on ... what they say there is a lack of workers, what they mean is they don't really want to pay 20$ an hour.

        If they don't want to pay $20/hr, then they should be saying there are too many workers. Because a shortage of labor means that the wages are too low and are under equilibrium.

    • Re:Oh please (Score:5, Insightful)

      by magarity (164372) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @10:51AM (#39311421)

      If heights is the reason for the lack of people then we have really lost our way. Reference the pictures of the guys building the Empire State Building, are they saying we couldn't get people to do that now?

      The Empire State workers didn't go through modern public school's 12 years of "Rah rah rah! I'm great for no particular reason!"

    • The reality here is either you have an industry that is too new and unorganized, a union that is putting a choke holds on the labor pool, or some other dumb ass bureaucratic reason that is making the country noncompetitive.

      D. All of the above.

    • by buglista (1967502)
      Watch this and tell me that 20 bucks/hour is enough for working on those sort of structures. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2A_h2AjJaMw [youtube.com]
      • Watch this and tell me that 20 bucks/hour is enough for working on those sort of structures. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2A_h2AjJaMw [youtube.com]

        Those are transmission towers. Structurally not the same at all. A lot of wind turbine towers, you climb up on the inside of them [youtube.com]. It's still demanding as hell, and a lot of work, but it's a little less freaky than the transmission towers.

    • a union that is putting a choke holds on the labor pool

      Please, tell us more...

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by cdrguru (88047)

      Do you understand the concept of liability insurance?

      Insurance companies do not want people doing this kind of work and they will make it difficult for anyone to hire people to do it. The reason is that is high risk and it is going to be expensive for an insurance company. Partly because they are going to have to pay out to either a beneficiary or lawyers when someone gets hurt or killed - and it is an absolute certainty someone will be hurt or killed.

      The problem isn't so much the worker but their family.

  • Sounds Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smpoole7 (1467717) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @10:36AM (#39311331) Homepage

    I don't climb the towers for our radio stations. I know a few maintenance engineers who do, but they're rare. Tower crews get thousands of dollars per day to do the climbing. Just to relamp our 350' towers at one of our stations costs about $750 per (and we have 5 of them).

    So yeah, I can imagine that they're looking for people who will climb 300' towers for $20 an hour. Good luck with that. :)

    The law of unintended consequences has a corollary: unintended *costs.*

    • by OzPeter (195038)

      Every now and again I see jobs advertised for tower climbers. And they typically state that don't even think about applying if you have never done it before. They must get a lot of people applying you think that climbing a tower is easy.

      • Re:Sounds Good. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by grumling (94709) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @11:15AM (#39311553) Homepage

        Back when I climbed telephone poles for a living (and had the body that goes along with it), I regularly climbed towers for our amateur radio repeater network. Once you're in place and tied down, the work is actually fairly easy. But we had a lot of ground support (and ropes and pulleys) to do the heavy lifting. But the first time you go above 50 feet or so it gets a little unnerving.

        • Re:Sounds Good. (Score:5, Informative)

          by vlm (69642) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @11:49AM (#39311747)

          I regularly climbed towers for our amateur radio repeater network

          Been there done that although I am more of a weak signal VHF operator.

          Another issue is also the weather. Light breeze with two feet on the ground turns into OMG freaking hurricane 100 feet up. Both psychologically and meteorologically. Hams have the luxury of waiting for a perfectly calm day. The real tower workers earn their dough on the bad weather days.

        • I knew an electrician who climbed poles to shut off power at the transformer. Well, he'd do that if he had to, most times he'd rather work on live 220V 100A service wires instead of climbing the pole, twice, to switch the breaker.

        • by nojayuk (567177)

          I climbed towers a couple of times in my youth to carry out repeater work, rigging antennas and stringing cable. Highest was, as I recall about 400 feet up a 1000 foot mast. I didn't have any fear of falling since the pro rigger I was working showed me how to do it safely with a three-points attachment to my harness etc. As he explained if I fell I might hurt someone on the ground when I landed but I'd be already dead from hitting all the bits of the tower I would bounce off on the way down.

          • Funny you mention that. My younger brother and I were in a tree, about 20' high, and he lost his grip, bounced off nearly every branch on the way down, and landed hard on the ground. Nothing broke, but he got a bit bashed around and dazed. I just remember looking down, watching him bounce off each branch like the Plinko game. Couldn't do shit for him once he started falling. He did learn to get a better grip when climbing.

        • Re:Sounds Good. (Score:5, Informative)

          by anethema (99553) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @06:28PM (#39314379) Homepage
          I'm an RF tech in Northern Canada. On a perfect day, with no wind, and warm weather, it can still be challenging. There are days at -30, 70kph winds, and you're trying to carefully point an 8 foot dish at something 50km away, it can be no picnic.

          Every radio technician I know basically has his pick of locations to work. I was working in a much balmier area for the first part of my career, and when I was looking to make more money, I essentially was offered a job as soon as I could start in every city I called.

          I picked the one that offered a good wage and appeared to treat their employees well.

          But it can get pretty forbidding and most companies go through quite a few Junior guys before finding one that has the right mix of bravery, problem solving skill, and responsibility to be a good radio tech long term.

          When you have to dress like this:
          http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7196/6970622485_5ebeeba3e8_z.jpg

          Or like this:
          http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7047/6824493552_3f21a9e218_z.jpg

          to climb up a 300 foot tower and work on something, you feel like you've earned the higher dollars you get paid.
          • by anethema (99553)
            That being said I've done a stint working on wooden poles with spurs and I'd take tower work any day. Man that sucked! About half way through the first summer I felt like refusing the work since it was so painful and annoying, but then I thought of buying a hunting tree stand, hooking it onto the pole, and working on the cable amplifiers I was servicing. Was about a billion times nicer.
      • Re:Sounds Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by smpoole7 (1467717) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @12:19PM (#39311965) Homepage

        And here's the thing ... Jim, the guy who runs the tower company that we use, is always looking for experienced climbers. So, how long will it be before tower companies start raiding these $20 an hour guys, promising more money and better benefits? :)

        These wind turbine people didn't think their fiendishly-clever plan all the way through. You ALWAYS factor the cost of maintenance into a business plan. ALWAYS.

        It might actually have been cheaper to build the turbines so that the assembly could be raised and lowered for service. Would have cost more up front, but would have saved in the long run. Heck, ham operators have been doing that with their antennas for decades. :)

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2A_h2AjJaMw [youtube.com].

      Also, it occurs to me that the guys who climb 300' towers should be paid just as much as the 2000' towers, since you're just as screwed in the event of a fall.

    • Re:Sounds Good. (Score:5, Informative)

      by hot soldering iron (800102) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @11:51AM (#39311761)

      Working my way through college in Kansas, I worked for the college as a student employee. One part of my job was to climb the towers for maintenance. We had several 50 footers, a couple hundred footers, and the main tower was 500 feet. I actually had a plane circle the tower below me one day while changing a light bulb.

      As a student employee, I had very little skills or knowledge, and a bit of competition for any job. I got paid $7.50/hr wither I was sitting at a workbench or climbing a tower. God, I was so stupid. Carrying tools up was like weightlifting on a StairMaster with the chance that somebody would put a bullet in your head at any second. The tower had been there about 7 years, and most of the guys that had erected it were dead. There is an incredible mortality rate for tower workers. One of my friends was climbing when a chunk of ice fell and hit his hard hat, almost knocking him unconscious. There were so many dangers, it was literally "criminal" to put an uninformed kid on it. You could die from falling (blown off or a rung rust through underneath the paint), electrocution (you're on the tallest metallic structure for miles, and lightning strikes even in clear skies), and impacts (falling ice and broken metal parts or antennas).

      Back in the early '90s the going rate for tower climbing was a buck a foot, and it would take a full hour to climb and descend the 500 footer. So $20/hr to go up, fix it, and climb down? Kiss my ass. I have skills and experience now, I don't have to risk my life for that insultingly small amount of money anymore.

      • I don't have to risk my life for that insultingly small amount of money anymore.

        Look up P.T. Barnum - famous quotes.

  • hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chickenrob (696532) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @10:42AM (#39311357) Homepage
    There are over 1000 electricians out of work in my local electrical union. Any of us would be glad to do that work, but they are not willing to pay qualified electricians to do the work.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kangburra (911213)

      Isn't $20 an hour better than no job at all? Or is there some reason the electricians can't work for that amount?

      • by berashith (222128)

        i think you may have skipped over the part that says union.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Isn't $20 an hour better than no job at all? Or is there some reason the electricians can't work for that amount?

        People like to say that your life and health are priceless, but as a group the wear and tear on the body and odds of not making it home alive have, as a group, determined its worth more than $20...

      • Isn't $20 an hour better than no job at all? Or is there some reason the electricians can't work for that amount?

        A good electrician can easily pull $65/hr around here. Some of them make upwards of $85/hr.

        Unemployment insurance pays better.

        • In Florida they make about $12 an hour.

          An experienced maybe $15 an hour. Your wages reflected demand 2002-2006 when builders could not find enough qualified workers and these homes needed to be sold FAST while they WERE STILL HOTT.

          Today, there are more electricians than jobs and these wages are gone forever. Even if another bubble starts there are more electricians now than demand so the builders can say take it or leave it.

          This is deflation my friend. It happened in the 1930s and is a sign of a depression.

      • Isn't $20 an hour better than no job at all? Or is there some reason the electricians can't work for that amount?

        $20 an hour to climb up a potentially dangerous 300 foot tower? Yeah sounds like a great idea. The company that maintains the tower just doesn't want to shell out hazard pay. Instead they can bitch and moan about how "no Americans want to do the job, we have to bring in underpaid workers from 3rd world countries!"

    • by gambino21 (809810)

      So you would rather have no job than take a pay cut? I agree that $20 per hour is not great, but why not take the lower paying job until you can find something better?

      • Re:hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

        by chill (34294) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @11:08AM (#39311515) Journal

        Because if you do that, nothing better will come along. The rate for the jobs that come along will start to align with the lower rates.

        This is what caused the unions to form to begin with. Large, dangerous industry like mining and manufacturing, paid enough for people to survive but not enough for them to ever prosper. It was a form of "voluntary" indentured servitude.

        If everyone got together and demanded better conditions or raises, they would get fired and replaced with the never-ending line of people desperate just to survive. Only by striking and creating a picket line to actually shut down business would any real change ever get made.

        For a modern example, see the stories on Foxcon and China. We in the West gape in horror at the working conditions and pittance for wages. But compared to the other options -- subsistence farming, etc. -- it is fantastic. If a worker doesn't toe the line, they're fired and replaced with any one of the teeming masses desperate to escape the crushing poverty they now live in.

        Yes, it can go too far. See the auto industry and the various stories about Teacher's unions where people clock in, then punch out for a 5 hour lunch, etc.

        But the whole "take the cut for now because something better will come along" doesn't scale.

        • Re:hmm (Score:4, Interesting)

          by cptdondo (59460) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @11:13AM (#39311547) Journal

          But the whole "take the cut for now because something better will come along" doesn't scale.

          Exactly. Once an employer knows that they can hire someone from a cheaper pool, they will happily lay off the well-paid workers and hire form the cheap pool. And along the way strip benefits.

          It doesn't go the other way, though - employers won't raise wages as long as there's any hope of hiring from the cheap pool. That's why middle class wages have been stagnant for 20 years, while the wealthiest have seen their income skyrocket.

          So yes, if you're qualified, hold out for the higher paying job if you can.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by johnnyb (4816)

            Yes, this usually happens when the employees have been milking the companies. That's actually what is happening now. This is why people are willing to go to cheap labor. If your current work crew isn't performing well, you might as well hire out for cheaper. If your workers are good at what they do and work hard, then the employer won't hire to the cheap pool, because the cheap pool isn't equivalent.

            Where I work, we sometimes bid a job for 4x what other firms bid it out for. But many companies still hi

            • Re:hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

              by chill (34294) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @01:01PM (#39312233) Journal

              Middle class wages are stagnant because (a) middle class workers are slacking, and (b) the government is eating up any possible extra money, and (c) inflating the currency enough to make savings worthless.

              A and B are factually incorrect. Productivity in the United States has been on a constant rise for the last 60 years. This would directly contradict A because it indicates more and more output is being produced by the workers.

              The total tax rate on people is lower now than practically anytime in the last 50 years.

              C is totally true, though. That an real inflation -- the cost of food, housing, energy, etc. -- has increased to keep pace with wage inflation. This makes it next to impossible to accept lower wages and actually keep your home/car. Unfortunately, with the housing market as is, moving isn't really much of an option. The housing crash has seriously curtailed the mobility of the workforce.

            • by Qzukk (229616)

              Where I work, we sometimes bid a job for 4x what other firms bid it out for. But many companies still hire us. Why?

              Because they give a damn about something other than the quarterly report. The other companies that won't hire you? They don't give a damn if it will cost more in the long run, they'll be gone by then.

              I'm guessing the majority of your clients are small businesses that aren't beholden to shareholders and their "maximize profits at all costs" outlook.

        • The towers could be safer, they could have interior stairs or even elevators. At some point, the extra hazard pay demanded by tower workers will begin to offset the cost of making safer towers. Also, stronger, safer towers will have a longer service lifetime. Balance will be found - $500/barrel oil will make safer towers cheaper still, by comparison.

        • Re:hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

          by guanxi (216397) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @03:06PM (#39313105)

          This is what caused the unions to form to begin with. Large, dangerous industry like mining and manufacturing, paid enough for people to survive but not enough for them to ever prosper. It was a form of "voluntary" indentured servitude.

          If everyone got together and demanded better conditions or raises, they would get fired and replaced with the never-ending line of people desperate just to survive. Only by striking and creating a picket line to actually shut down business would any real change ever get made.

          It was more than that. Employers politically dominated the towns. Oppose them and nobody would do business with you, your bank would call in your mortgage, and you might have trouble with the sheriff. Employers also would beat up and kill people who opposed them, often with the help of state law enforcement. Unions not only provided negotiating power, but political power: Politicians who need union votes aren't going to send in the state militia to assault strikers, and will pass laws that take into account more interests than just the industrialists, such as child labor, worker safety, and overtime laws.

          Unions are political organizations. They can be used for good or for ill, like the political power of the US Chamber of Commerce, but at least the working class can protect their interests.

      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        It is very possible that as soon as a union member takes a non-uninion job they are put on scab status and will never be able to work a union job again. If not officially then by convention.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 10, 2012 @10:49AM (#39311401)

    'It seems odd, with America's unemployment problem, to have a shortage of workers for a job that can pay in excess of $20 per hour.

    Actually, the average income in the US is $40000 per year, which is about $20 per hour. So, the job is only paying the national average. That's why it's not attracting people from out-of-state, even though the pay is above-average for the state of Oklahoma. See the statistics at http://bber.unm.edu/econ/us-pci.htm [unm.edu].

    • by Dave114 (168228)

      Does the first word in the phrase "starting salary" mean anything to you? I'm guessing a year or two of experience would likely help their earnings a fair bit versus someone fresh out of school.

      Add that it mentions that the job "can pay in excess of $20 per hour," meaning that if the American average is $20 per hour the job can pay above the average American salary. Add in a presumably even lower cost of living in Oklahoma, and you're better off yet.

  • Just reading the headline I initially assumed it to be a project to harness that hot air produced by all those MBAs.

  • I have heard that there is a nursing shortage too., but that the problem was that there was a shortage of qualified and experienced nurses. Newly graduated nurses apprently were not qualified to do serious work, and as such there is a glut of entry level nurses.
    Maybe this is true, but the economy has been bad for years now, and I am sure that if there were sufficient job demand, enough people would retool. I hear that one big problem for returning vets is finding job. I think that if you were willing t
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 10, 2012 @11:04AM (#39311499)

      Speaking as someone who is in medicine but not a nurse, the issue is two fold. First, hospital administration is petrified of new graduates, so it doesn't matter if there's a million new grad rn's hospitals won't take a chance on them unless they're really, really desperate. Second, hospitals in their for profit wisdom (non-profits do this too) have decided to slash the pay offered to these experienced nurses to the point they've told these shit employers to pound sand.

      See how it works? We won't pay you what you're worth (a good rn is worth more than a mediocre md) yet we won't hire the new generation so we can run around waving our hands in the air shouting "shortage shortage!"

      People wonder why we're going to hell in a hand basket.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 10, 2012 @10:58AM (#39311469)

    All these "Industry X facing chronic shortage of qualified Y" stories can typically be translated to either:

    "Profession Y is well paid, and we would like to drive down those wages by saturating the market with graduates"
    "Profession Y is a niche / dying trade that we rely on, but running training schemes / apprenticeships hurts our quarterly returns"

    In both cases Y tends to be industry specific engineers

  • Dirty Jobs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OzPeter (195038) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @11:04AM (#39311497)

    Mike Rowe did an episode of Wind Farm technician. Fascinating show. And proved that I'd hate to do it. It wasn't the climbing the ladder, or standing on top of it that was the problem. The nacelles are only just big enough to fit the generator and leave enough room for a midget to crawl around and do the servicing.

    The big laugh in that episode was one of the techs telling a story of a snake in the nacelle. Apparently it had crawled in there during construction when the nacelle was on the ground and then rode it all the way to the top.

    I can't find a link to the actual video, but it was Season 3 episode 31, "Wind Farm Technician".

    • Most on-site manual labor jobs suck no matter how you look at them. A lot of white collar jobs suck in a different way. Unless you're in the top 10% of any white collar field, your job most likely sucks, because all the really cool jobs have been taken by that 10%.

      The key is most jobs suck because, hey, they're jobs. If they weren't they'd be hobbies, and you'd either love them or you'd go do something else.

      • by OzPeter (195038)

        The key is most jobs suck because, hey, they're jobs.

        I know jobs have their own suck factors. I'm sure being a jockey sucks in its own way, but I'm not physically suited to be a jockey.

  • I'm still skeptical that large windmill-style wind generators are the best choice either from a TCO or side-effect point of view. Certainly if I were going to put something on my own land, I'd do same careful life-cycle studies as well as both audio and ground-vibration studies. I would like to see more about vertical turbines, which certainly have a smaller volume requirement and are supposedly much quieter.

  • 4 week training? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Drakin (415182) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @11:40AM (#39311677)

    I'm thinking these folks are underpaid & under trained.

    I got more training that that as a newly hired first year apprentice with my power company, on top of my apprenticeship board required education. And I still had to work under direct supervision until I got my journeyman ticket.

    Unless there's a lot more to it, they're likely not qualified, and you'll see the electrical and mechanical trades start a fuss over it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm thinking these folks are underpaid & under trained.

      Mod parent up, Insightful.

      To climb a 300' tower and risk your life inside a small room with a spinning rotor holding more inertia than your entire body could handle, let alone a finger or hand (as is likely to get caught in it if anything does) is a massive amount of risk and work. $20/hour is disgusting for something that has no overhead aside from startup costs and maintenance - these guys are certainly underpaid, and the free market is a very simple thing when it comes to labor: if you can't attract the

    • by anethema (99553)
      There are other options. Some colleges here in canada offer wind-farm tech as a one year course that will at least get your started.

      http://www.nlc.bc.ca/programs/allprograms/windturbinemaintenancetechnician.aspx

      That is in my town here in northern canada but there must be others as well.
  • That is part of the unemployment problem as well. When you have schools turning out BA, MA, PHD with out the right skills but that same time you have people with out a BA or people with a AA from a tech or community college with alot more skills can't get a tech job do to the lack of BA's or higher.

  • Experience (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 10, 2012 @12:23PM (#39311995)

    I am a wind tech. I service and repair these towers. You either are in shape, or will be in shape soon climbing the towers. I climb up to 3 towers a day. The job is extremely cold (or hot, depending on the season), and the work is dangerous. I work directly with power magnitudes from 24DC to 1042DC, and 24AC 1phase up to 690v 3phase. I DO get more than $25 an hour, and most weeks I get about 65 hours. My training includes 2 years schooling, 4 weeks basic classroom tower training, 2 weeks advanced classroom diagnostics training, and 6 months supervised OJT training.
    Despite the above, qualified technicians are difficult to find and hire. The companies that hire under-qualified persons (such as exampled in the article) are not worried about their turbine reliability, or their employees.
    BTW, most turbine techs around my area get $15 an hour or less.

    • by PPH (736903)

      Where are most of these jobs relative to population centers? Part of the problem may be that there just aren't that many people who are already living out in the boondocks, or willing to relocate there who aren't already gainfully employed.

  • $20/hr starting salary is roughly 40k a year. Not bad for a entry level position that doesn't require a degree. As to the 4 weeks training remember these are entry level. It seems for some reason the industry has a 1:10 ratio of people to towers, whether that's an actual number of implied by the job postings and number of turbines is unclear. This is an overall number, it doesn't mean that 1 person baby sits his/her 10 towers and is qualified for all situations. Depending what is wrong they'll bring in the
    • by Mashiki (184564)

      I wouldn't say they're out of touch. But the major if people on /. work in cities that pay much more. Hell, my first years mechanic apprenticeship paid $2.25/hr, this would be paid right up to my 3rd year. And in my 4th year I'd be at min. wage at the time or $6.85/hr. Of course I had to buy all my tools on a $2.25/hr salary too. Luckily now, the government will co-pay or give you an low interest loan via the banks for it. This is going back oh 15-16 years ago but the trade skills still don't pay

  • Wow. What's that, $40k/year?

    Why would you bother being a turbine jockey when you could be a tower jockey and get paid a hell of a lot more to fix radio antennas?

  • by decora (1710862) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @02:13PM (#39312749) Journal

    every time you hear about 'shortage in industry x', what it really means is that 'industry is trying to lower wages".

    why would they want to lower wages? so that they can return more profit to their shareholders, which are big funds and investment banks. it has nothing, whatsoever, to do with a 'labor shortage'. remember the invisible hand of the market? it should take care of 'shortages' just fine. it is funny to see the capitalists decide that capitalistic theory is not 'good enough' for their profit margin, and they need to grease the wheels with massive media campaigns and PR initiatives.

    • by tomhath (637240)

      remember the invisible hand of the market? it should take care of 'shortages' just fine

      In fact, that's exactly what's going on here. Millions of people are out of work; why would a company hire the most expensive workers when there are plenty of people willing to work for less?

      If the job is as bad as some are claiming the workers will soon find an easier $20/hour job to pay their bills and market forces will drive the pay rate up. That seems more fair than artificially restricting the workforce to a chosen few who make high wages and blocking other qualified workers from doing the job for l

  • I wonder about the long-term viability of such jobs.

    Inasmuch as wind power is utterly dependent on subsidies that means the jobs are dependent on the political fortunes of the "green" lobby and the various parasitic, private sector entities that feed off their political power, the industry would disappear if the influence of the "green" lobby declines.

    It doesn't happen every day but there are more then a few cases of industries, no longer viable or no longer viable in America, using political power to main

  • The problem is, each turbine requires regular maintenance during its 20-year lifespan, with a requirement of one turbine technician for every 10 turbines on the ground.

    This is the dirty little secret of the wind industry everyone seems to ignore when talking about it as an energy source with little to no down sides. More people have been killed [wind-works.org] in the U.S. maintaining wind turbines (or climbing improperly secured maintenance ladders [wkyc.com]) than in its entire history of nuclear power generation. This despite nu

  • Genius, they've invented Windows.

    It looks like they need Linux (or BSD), with only one turbine technician per 100 turbines instead.

    -- Terry

  • The recession of the late 2000's caused a record number of US citizens to go back to school to get more education/training. Now we still have ~20 million unemployed people looking for work and companies are still complaining about a lack of skilled labor?

    There are two explanations:
    1 - The companies are full of shit
    2 - Our education system is failing us horribly and not properly educating/training our workforce.

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