Archive for December, 2010

Energy Technician Education Summit

Friday, December 17th, 2010
Photo Courtesy of the AACC

Photo Courtesy of the AACC

This week’s Episode of ATETV features the Segment “Gearing Up for the Energy Workforce.” So, it seems particularly timely that the broadcast coincides with the recent National Energy Technician Education Summit, which was held in Washington December 8-10.

Hosted by the Advanced Technology Environmental and Energy Center (ATEEC) and the American Association of Community Colleges, the summit brought together representatives from the worlds of education, industry, and government to focus on the ways that community colleges can meet the current and future needs for technicians in the energy sector, an industry propelled by growing demands for alternative energies and a growing need to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

According to a story appearing on the website of the Community College Times, summit participants agreed that a combination of technical skills and “soft skills” are required for the job of energy technician. On the technical side, aptitudes in math, science, data analysis and mechanical and information technology were cited as necessary for the field. And employers at the summit agreed that they also seek employees who possess “soft” skills such as the ability to speak and write clearly, to solve problems, to work on a team, and to think critically.

As Daniel Lance, global training leader for GE Energy Renewables told the Community College Times, “Give me a technician that’s got a good, solid fundamental understanding of electrical theory, power generation, safety and some work experience [and] I can take that resource and teach [him] the specifics of the GE technology that they need.”

Another area of focus at the three-day long event was energy efficiency. As we heard from students and teachers at Sinclair Community College in this week’s Episode, energy efficiency measures begin one building at a time. But, with nearly 5 million commercial buildings in North America, these measures wind up having widespread environmental and economic impact — and create a significant demand for energy technicians who know how to efficiently operate building systems. As New York State Energy Research and Development Authority project manager Kimberlie Lenihan told the Community College Times, “We need whole-building thinkers.”

A summit summary will be posted at the ATEEC web site and the ATEEC will publish a full report on the National Energy Technician Summit next spring. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about alternative energy, energy efficiency and workforce trends for energy technicians, check out additional resources at the Community College Times.

Secrets to Getting a Great Job and Building a Financially Rewarding Career

Friday, December 10th, 2010

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you NOTHING. It was here first.” ~Mark Twain

Why would someone hire you?

    Understanding the real world of work: 3 secrets to your success

The first secret to getting a great job and building a financially rewarding career is to understand that you need to be contributing to “the bottom line” (success/profit) every day. Unless your employer is better off with you than before you were hired, you probably are not needed. If what you are doing does not require you to think, analyze, make decisions, collaborate with co-workers and/or customers and make things happen, it is possible that a robot can do the job. Here is the pertinent question: what have I done today to contribute to the success of the organization and make it more profitable? Your personal success and financial gain can only be realized if your employer gets there first.

The next secret is to equip yourself with the right skills and knowledge. Enroll in a college program for which graduates are in demand. Engineering Technology programs produce graduates that are always in demand. Engineering technicians are essential for much of the work that must be done right here in the USA from power generation to building roads, bridges or buildings to manufacturing. Get really good at understanding how systems work, with hands-on technology, and with trouble-shooting and problem solving. You will be in demand.

Did you know that 80% of people who fail on the job fail due to lack of interpersonal skills— not lack of technical skills? It should not be a surprise that the last secret is to exhibit attitude-related behaviors that employers expect and reward:
• Take responsibility for yourself
• Contribute to others’ success
• Put customers first
• Be a “team player”
• Volunteer and show some initiative
• Follow the rules
• Work the hours you’re paid for
• Exceed expectations
• Keep your commitments
• Get with change
• Be considerate of tohers
• Don’t “Whine” or spread negativity
• Give, and earn, respect
• Embrace diversity
• Keep learning
• Ask for feedback
• Be patient
• Be appreciative
• Think “safety”
• Think “health” Look your best Keep the boss informed
• Act like an “owner”
• Focus on the big 2: increase revenue, decrease costs
• Perform with ethics and integrity

    Getting there from here

Starting in high school is perfect. Sign up for classes that expand your experiences and thinking beyond the core required subjects. Take advantage of dual credit when you can so that you earn college credit while still in high school. Be strategic in choosing your electives. Try anything available that involves hands-on technology or applied science. See what you like and what you seem to be good at doing. Math, science, technology, and engineering (STEM)-based careers have the greatest demand for workers and pay the best. STEM-based career choices are growing daily, moving into new and emerging technology fields that did not exist just a few years ago. You can be on the cutting edge for the future just by choosing to make STEM your focus. Meanwhile, don’t blow off your core subjects. You need strong foundation in basic math, science, and English. Your future success depends on giving these subjects your best effort. You don’t have to love them, but you do need to achieve the highest level of mastery possible. Doing so will pay off time and again in your future. You don’t want to have to study these core subjects at the same level again in the future, so get it right and soak it in the first time!

Choose an engineering technology or related program at your local technical or community college. Investigate options that may be new to you such as robotics. Look for a program that provides internship, co-op (cooperative education), or apprentice opportunities while you are in college. Having an opportunity to work for a local employer while you are in college is the single best way to land a job upon graduation. Paid internships are ideal because you can earn while you learn, but any on-the-job experience will give you a competitive advantage when you look for a job after graduation. In an internship, you will get to know the employer and work environment and the employer will be able to assess your attributes and see how well you fit into the organization. Also, you may discover what you really don’t want to do the rest of your life. It is better to find out sooner than later.

Work at developing the broadest skill set possible. Consider a double major (mechanical engineering technology and robotics, civil engineering technology and engineering graphics). Choose your electives to enable you to acquire special knowledge and skills. Your unique combination of knowledge and skills may give you the competitive edge when interviewing for jobs.

Observe those who currently work at the company when you are seeking employment (park nearby and watch people coming to work or leaving work). Then, go home and look in the mirror. If your appearance and dress are dramatically different than those you’ve observed, you may need to consider what this means for you. As the old saying goes, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” It is human nature to be suspicious or to misunderstand those how appear radically different. Specific dress, hair, etc. codes may be required at a company for safety or other reasons. Can you adapt? Is it more important to get a job than to make a statement?

If you provide a telephone number so that a potential employer can reach you, make sure that your voice message is appropriate for the business world. What may seem to be fun or cute to your friends may be totally inappropriate for handling business calls. Failure to demonstrate that you grasp the basics of the business world and associated etiquette will de-rail you on the path to success.

Word of the Day: Nacelle

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Wind TurbineDo you think you have a good vocabulary? Here’s one for you: What is the definition of “nacelle”? We’ll give you a few clues.

Clue #1: A wind turbine couldn’t function without one. Wind turbines are the towering windmill-style mechanisms that convert the flow of wind into the mechanical motion that is used to produce electricity. Today, wind power accounts for about 50 percent of our country’s renewable energy and, according to the American Wind Energy Association, is one of the fastest growing sources of electricity in the world today. Among the more than 8,000 parts that make up a wind turbine are three major components: the blades, the tower and the nacelle.

Clue #2: They frequently require the services of Wind Techs. Wind Turbine Service Technicians, or “wind techs” are the men and women who provide regular maintenance for wind turbines — especially the nacelles. According to a recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics wind techs are capable of diagnosing and fixing any problem that might require a wind turbine to shut down, and they perform much of their daily work in nacelles.

Clue #3: They’re bigger than the proverbial bread box, and sometimes large enough for a helicopter to land upon.

If, by now, you’re thinking that the nacelle is the “brain” of the wind turbine, you’re right. Derived from the French word for “small boat,” the nacelle is the compact space that houses the turbine’s gears, generator and other mechanical components. The nacelle also contains the complex electronic components that enable the turbine to monitor changes in wind speed and direction in order to turn wind into useable energy. (To learn more, check out “How Wind Turbines Work” from the U.S. Department of Energy.)

And, if the nacelle is the brain of the wind turbine, then Wind Techs are the brain surgeons, keeping these complex components functioning smoothly. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wind Turbine Service Technicians actually perform the majority of their daily work inside the nacelles’ compact space at the top of the tower, as they clean and lubricate shafts, bearings, gears and other machinery, and troubleshoot potential generator problems. Wind techs may also work outside on top of the nacelle, hundreds of feet in the air, replacing the instruments that measure wind speed and direction.

Training programs in wind turbine maintenance are offered at community colleges across the country, and generally include course work in basic turbine design, diagnositics, control and monitoring systems, as well as basic turbine repair. Many programs, like the one at Laramie County Community College featured in this week’s Episode, also offer students hands-on training. Check out the Windustry web site for a full list of educational programs.

And, just think, you’re already ahead of the game — you know what a nacelle is. (For extra credit, check out some other wind-energy “vocabulary” words at The Energy Bible.)