Wind Turbine Technician Careers with MIAT College of Technology: Season 4, Episode 7
Meet MIAT College of Technology
Since 1969, MIAT College of Technology has helped thousands of individuals get the industry-relevant skills, experience, and connections it takes to pursue rewarding technical careers. After more than 50 years in technical career education, MIAT has built an excellent reputation and strong working relationships with top employers.
As a MIAT student today, you’ll benefit from the proud legacy of success and continued good name of MIAT within the technical training industry.
Our Guest: David Moriconi from MIAT College of Technology
On this episode of Imagine America Radio, we interview David Moriconi, the program coordinator for the wind and energy programs at MIAT College of Technology in Houston, Texas.
David gives us more information on what a wind turbine technician does, what the career outlook looks like, and how a wind turbine program at MIAT College of Technology can help students prepare for the field.
Bob Martin: On this particular episode, we’re going to be discussing wind power technician careers. Joining us on today’s topic is Mr. Gideon Moriconi, the energy and wind program coordinator at the Michigan Institute of Aeronautics and Technology, or MIAT, located in Houston, Texas, and Canton, Michigan. As I said a minute ago, MIAT has two campuses: one in Michigan, one in Texas. And MIAT is also the newest member of the UTI school group. Imagine America Foundation has a long history—a very proud history—of working with UTI. So, we’re very excited about this particular episode. Today we want to talk about wind power technician careers. As a leading provider of education and wind power, we couldn’t think of anyone better to talk to than MIAT and, to be particular, Mr. Moriconi. Let’s start off by telling our listeners, if you could, as best you can, exactly what a wind power technician is and—more importantly—what do they do on a daily basis?
David Moriconi: Okay. Well, good morning. That’s a really good question, but let’s start with what exactly what a wind turbine is. Wind turbines are often located in remote areas of the country. They almost look like big 300-foot-tall fans to the common citizen. They got a lot of the similar qualities as well, but a little bit different. The blades mounted on the front act as sails, catch the winds, and essentially turn a shaft. Through a series of mechanical systems, they will turn a generator located on the top of the tower, which makes electricity. Wind turbine techs safely work at heights on these towers on both mechanical and the electrical controls, which allow the safe and efficient operations of these turbines.
Lee Doubleday: That’s great. And I’m glad that you took the time to explain to us sort of how, the wind turbine—how it all kind of works. Quick question before we move on for you, Mr. Moriconi, do you think that there’s a wind turbine in every single state of the United States?
David: No. Actually, there’s not. They don’t put up wind turbines in areas where they don’t have a lot of wind. Most of the biggest areas—in the United States at least—that have wind turbines tend to be Pacific Northwest, West Coast. There is a lot of them in the Flat Plains—the Great Plains, the United States, the whole central area. They do have a couple out in New England area as well, but the Deep South—Alabama, Mississippi, and even Florida—there’s, it’s relatively rare to find wind farms out there.
Lee: Okay. Yeah, I was just curious. Now, speaking of the wind turbine technician career, what does the career outlook look like for wind power technicians?
David: Well, according to recent BLS data, it states that employment of wind turbine technicians is projected to grow 68% from 2020 to 2030—much faster than the average for all occupations. Many of these openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Lee: Wow. 68%—that is a lot. And actually, that’s the reason why we’re talking about this program on the podcast today. Our focus for the month of February is on top trending careers of 2022. And with 68% growth, you can see why we’re talking about this program. So, I have sort of a two-parted question for you. Number one, what does a typical wind power program include? And how long is a typical wind power program?
David: Both good questions. A typical wind turbine certificate can be earned in as little as seven months. We go all over all of the basics an entry wind turbine tech will need to start a meaningful career in the industry. We teach students how to keep themselves safe at heights with proper fall protection. We go over the design and operation of wind turbines, including systems such as the yaw and pitch systems. Mechanical theory and application are learned and demonstrated, such as alignments, hydraulics, and mechanical drivetrains. We also go over some of the electrical controls aspects, like PLC integrations and reading wiring schematics specifically geared towards wind turbines. All of this is in addition to more general courses like precision measurements, electrical theory, and crane operations. For the students who want a further career, for a few more months, we also offer an degree. These additional classes go over things like gas turbines, boilers, diesels, and steam turbines.
Lee: Yeah, I have a question about that before we move on. You mentioned different types of turbines. Are there different types of wind turbines?
David: Oh, yeah. It’s a growing industry. It seems like every year some of the manufacturers come out with new prototypes. Some of them are vertical access wind turbines that don’t actually need a yaw system, and they’ll harvest wind in any direction. Some of them have multiple rotors, multiple cells in the same tower.
Bob: So, you got the seven-month program. That’s kind of the core. Then you talked about associates. How much more education will be required for the individual after you do the initial core seven months?
David: Essentially, if you decide to move past the certificate into that degree, you will have to take a couple more technical courses. The examples I gave were gas turbines, boilers, diesels, steam turbines. But on top of that, you also will have to take some general core courses like public speaking, English 1301—
David: —all the which are offered through the college.
Lee: Yeah. Mr. Moriconi, what is the associate degree actually in? Is it in wind power turbine technician? What is the associate degree in?
David: It’s not specifically wind turbines. It’s energy technology as a whole, which is why it includes other things like the boilers and steam turbines very often used for power generation.
Lee: Got you. All right. Well, let’s say I’m a student and I’m listening to this podcast, and I’m interested in a wind power program. When I tour a campus offering a program like this, what are a few things that I should be looking for? Because it seems like a program such as this is going to require updated equipment in order to stay relevant with current work environments. But would the equipment that the school uses be something I should consider? And what else should I consider? Maybe accreditation. We already talked about length of program. But I’m assuming the most important part would be relationships with employers. Can you give me sort of a checklist of things students should be looking for when considering entering a school with this program?
David: Yeah, absolutely. There’s actually several different things to look for when choosing an education facility. First off, we are an accredited institution through ACCSC. Also, look at the equipment being used. It should be up to date, following the changing needs of the industry. Wind turbines tend to be a relatively new field, and the equipment and rules are routinely changing with the needs of the industry. A good school should follow suit. Also, look at the qualifications of the instructors. All of their instructors on campus are degree professionals with many years of experience to help the students get a good foothold in the industry. Lastly, look at career services. This relationship has helped pave the way for many companies to routinely come back and ask for MIAT graduates again and again.
Bob: Hey, David. Bob, again. Real quickly, for my own benefit. Again, I’m thinking about our audience. I’m thinking about students. And I’m looking at someone who’s been doing this for a number of years. Tell me what you think are three or four of the personality traits that you see in MIAT students that you say, “Yeah, he or she has got it.” These are the three or four traits that are going to make them successful to be a candidate for student candidacy but also for graduation, because that’s ultimately what we’re trying to get. We’re trying to get them to graduation, get them out there working, right?
David: Absolutely. That’s definitely an easy one. Employers always ask for the same qualities. They want people who have integrity, which is doing the right thing even when nobody’s looking. They want people who are safe and follow safety rules. On most days, the wind turbine techs work about 300 feet up tower and around electrical systems. And it’s very important to have someone who knows how to keep themselves and their coworkers safe. Employers also like team players with good attitudes. There’s a strong sense of camaraderie in most wind turbines and these maintenance outfits need people to work on a team with a smile on their face. You would actually be surprised how far it goes. But I’ve seen firsthand how important these qualities are for the employers.
Lee: So, I do have another question. Would you say that this is a program that someone should consider even if they don’t have any experience in wind turbine?
David: Yeah, absolutely. It’s definitely a growing industry, and it’s a very attractive field to a lot of people. Most of the students that come to the school don’t have an extensive technical background. So, what we do is we make sure that they’re definitely on that base level and will be effective out in the field. So, absolutely—no experience? Still come take this program.
Lee: Do you find that students are coming out of high school that are interested in the program like this? What’s the typical age of a student in your program?
David: We get students of all ages in our program. Some of the earliest people come straight out of high school immediately, sometimes the summer right after they graduate. And we’ve also gotten older people as well come and get their start in the field. Some of the oldest people I’ve had in class are in their 50s and 60s.
Bob: Kind of a career-changer kind of person. Would that be fair? Career changer?
David: Oh, definitely. This is a great up-and-coming career for a lot of people. And if you have a little bit of technical experience in other areas, it will transfer even easier to this field.
Bob: I’ve been listening—very exciting presentation. We want to give you an opportunity, if people are interested in getting more from you or talking to you—maybe by email or whatever it may be—if you could be good enough to give us some contact information for that. Because I’m certain that we’re going to have people in this audience who are going to say, “Gee, I’d like to get David out to my class and I’d like him to talk to some of our young people about these careers.” But can you give us that kind of contact information, please?
David: Oh, absolutely. We can be found many, many places on the internet. All you have to really do is just run it in the internet search. It will come up very quickly. Our website is www.miat.edu. But we’re also set up on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and a myriad of other social networking sites.
Lee: Yeah, David, you know what? This is another thing that just kind of came to my mind was that—we talked about this a little earlier. Wind turbine technicians and where the wind turbines are located in the country. And it sounds like, if this is a program that somebody might be interested in getting the technical skills that they need, but then having the ability to move to a coastal town or somewhere pretty cool to be able to work on a wind turbine—can you kind of reiterate where a lot of the wind turbines are? Because I think that a lot of students may be interested in getting into this program because it gives them the ability to move to a relatively cool location.
David: Yeah, well, the three major places the wind turbines tend to be placed is—if you’ve noticed, the wind is always blowing at the beach, so the coastlines, because of the differential temperature, always has a lot of wind turbines as well. The Great Plains are really flat and as the air goes by, there’s nothing to really stop it. So, the Great Plains tend to be great areas as well. So, you’ll see those in the Midwest area. On the West Coast, we have a lot of mountains and the mountains themselves kind of influence the profile of the wind. So, we tend to put wind turbines between the mountains and the mountain passes. So, you’ll see a lot of wind turbines out on the West Coast. As far as outside of the continental US, but still US, Hawaii tends to have a lot of them too. They’re on the outside, and they usually have job postings for Hawaii as well. And for the people that like the cold weather, there’s actually quite a few of them out in Alaska as well.
Lee: Pretty cool. It’s just cool hearing–
Bob: David, I’m not hearing a downside on location.
David: Well, like I said, if you want to work in Mississippi, not very many wind turbines out there yet.
Bob: That’s fun to talk about. We really want to thank you for joining us today. On this episode of Imagine America Radio, we showcased and highlighted energy and wind careers. Thank you very much, David, for joining us.