Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wind-power industry seeks quantified workforce

Interest in green-collar jobs is surging among workers from struggling industries. Colleges like California's Cerro Coso are scrambling to help fill the lack of technical education for the field.

"Hard times have brought them to a classroom in rural Kern County to learn a different trade. Tonight's lesson: How to avoid death and dismemberment.

This is Wind Technology Boot Camp at Cerro Coso Community College, where eight weeks of study and $1,000 in tuition might lead to a job repairing mammoth wind turbines like the ones sprouting up across this region.

The work requires smarts and stamina. It is potentially dangerous. Candidates need good knees, a cool head -- and a stomach for heights.

"I've seen guys just freeze halfway up the tower," said instructor Merritt Mays, a baby-faced former Marine, who at 29 is already a grizzled veteran in this young industry.

For those who can hack it, starting pay ranges from $15 to $20 an hour. Crack technicians can make six figures a year. Wind farms are hiring and probably will be for years to come. That's luring hard hats like 49-year-old Chuck Patterson back to school, despite the inherent risks of working 300 feet in the air."

Read the full article by Marla Dickerson

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