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Wind energy sounds great, but can it help create jobs?

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Washington has a well kept secret that most people on the West side of the mountains probably haven’t heard. If you listen closely, you just might hear it whistling past your open window. According to a study compiled by Washington State University employees, Washington has the fifth largest installed wind capacity in the United States. On top of that, the demand for wind turbines is rapidly outpacing the supply, leaving an employment vacancy that may soon be filled.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistic is predicting that the demand for wind power will fuel growth. “The industry’s growth should increase demand for skilled workers,” they wrote in a recent report. However, there is speculation that the growth will begin to slow down in as little as five years. While there are several large wind projects on the horizon in Washington State, mostly notably a PSE project on the lower Snake River, the majority of the prime real estate for wind farms has been accounted for.

New projects are likely to move inward toward the central United States where there is more pristine land for wind-based power generation. However, there is a possibility that privately held land, mostly farm land, will be available for windmills in Washington. When a windmill is built on privately held land, the power company pays a stipend to the land owner.

Alan Hardcastle, a Senior Research Associate at WSU, has been investigating wind energy as part of the WSU’s Extension Energy Program. Hardcastle believes that there will be growth in the wind sector and that jobs will become available.

These jobs will fall into two main categories. The first category is planning, which includes construction, zoning and design. These jobs will depend largely on the number of wind farms that Washington constructs each year, and could decline rapidly if the demand for wind power in Washington decreases.

The second category is maintenance and repair. Although maintaining windmills doesn’t require a large workforce, there is a possibility that the demand for the job will increase, especially when the currently aging workforce retires.

Although Hardcastle predicts that jobs in the windmill and wind power sector will see at least moderate growth, he admits that the education system is currently not setup to handle the training required for these jobs. There are wind programs available, like a wind technician class
in Vancouver that students can complete in six months.

Hardcastle thinks that preparing students for a field as limited as wind may not be as effective as providing them with a broader skill set, like focusing on energy in general. After completing an energy degree, students can earn a certificate in their desired field, or even earn multiple certificates so that they have the ability to move between different fields.

Quick hit programs that provide only a specialized skill are great for filling job gaps, but they don’t create a hearty workforce that has the ability to grow with the industry, and in turn fuel industry growth. Because of Washington’s established wind farms, it is possible that jobs could be created with the intent to train new wind farm technicians and other workers.


Written by Wes Simons

November 7, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Posted in Job Hunting

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Tech companies are hiring, but who’s applying?

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Job opportunities in computer science have taken off in Washington State since last year. As of April 2010, computer software engineers are second only to health care professionals in number of job vacancies.

Susan Sigl, CEO of the Washington Technology Industry Association, says she’s noticed the increased demand this year. There are currently 665 positions posted at the company’s job center, and roughly 75 percent of those are in software, IT and engineering positions.

However, Sigl notes that many of these vacant positions are tough to fill.

“The telling statistics are that 87 percent of the WTIA’s Job Center listings require a college degree and 68 percent require 5-7 years of experience,” Sigl says via email. “It isn’t necessarily that the tech sector is creating significantly more jobs, even though there appears to be some of that, but rather the competition for experienced, high quality technical candidates is fierce and the best companies are not lowering their requirement standards, so these positions remain unfilled.”

In other words, what looks like an increase in hiring at first glance may in fact be a widening job gap. Demand for talent in the tech industry outweighs supply, leaving jobs unfilled. The data shows that job opportunities in Washington State are on the rise. Whether or not there are trained workers ready to fill these jobs is another matter.

More to come on this story.

Written by Steve Reno

September 15, 2010 at 10:15 am

Despite high unemployment, tech sector layoffs remain low

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Here’s an interesting graph from the September issue of Seattle Business magazine showing the number of layoffs in the tech industry nationally compared to the number of mass layoffs in Washington State. It’s worth a look to compare the number of tech layoffs in 2001, at the height of the dot com bust, with 2009, at the height of the current recession.

The graph also shows that the number of tech sector layoffs is estimated to have dropped by at least 70,000 this year. A post I did earlier this month found that job vacancies in the tech sector is also on the rise. Stay tuned for a follow-up post on these trends.

Written by Steve Reno

August 31, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Posted in Unemployment

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Seattle is 13th easiest city to find a job in.

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Seattle was the 13th easiest major city to find a job in based on the rankings from Juju’s rankings are compiled by dividing the number of unemployed laborers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in each metro area with the “number of jobs in Juju’s comprehensive index of millions of online jobs in the United States, which is compiled and updated continuously from thousands of employer career portals, recruiter websites, and job boards all over the Internet.”

Juju might be tooting their own horn a little with that last bit, but the survey does give a good indication of how Seattle is weathering the economic times. The large companies in Seattle, especially the tech industry, are helping to keep employment up even as other sector’s struggle.

The top five cities are Washington, D.C; San Jose, CA; New York, NY; Baltimore, MD; and Hartford, CT. Seattle is the only Washington city on the chart, and Portland makes a late appearance at 41. Despite D.C. holding the top spot, the unemployment rate is actually higher, at 10.5 percent, than Seattle’s 8.9 percent. D.C. has 1.18 unemployed persons per available job.

One problem with the survey is that it takes into account several jobs that don’t pay a livable wage, as well as internships. Have you found job hunting in Seattle easier than in other cities?

Jump to get a look at the full rankings, and to browse Juju’s job database.

Written by Wes Simons

August 26, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Hirings and firings – 8/25

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Who’s hiring: Government jobs may be disappearing in Washington State, but a job plan unveiled by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn on Tuesday promises to change that. The 25-page plan lists some 10,000 new jobs that would be created through infrastructure projects, retrofitting existing infrastructure, and investment in small businesses, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal.

Who’s firing: Seattle software company Varolli Corporation laid off an undisclosed number of employees, TechFlash reports. Varolli also cut eight percent of its workforce in January 2009. The company still employees more than 250 people.

Written by Steve Reno

August 25, 2010 at 10:51 am

Washington unemployment drops again, sort of…

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Unemployment in Washington dropped for the second month in a row to 8.9 percent, according to the Washington State Employment Situation Report. That’s an interesting statistic, because last month’s unemployment was also 8.9 percent, and by my calculations, taking into consideration the fact that I majored in English and not math, that isn’t a decrease.

As it turns out, last month’s number is an estimate, and after factoring in adjustments, the actual unemployment rate was 9.0 percent. While unemployment dropped, there were also several thousand jobs cut in the government and public sectors once again.

The report isn’t all negative. There was an overall increase in the number of people employed in Washington, not include census workers, and there are more people employed than there were a year ago. This is good news, but the small increases don’t mean much if they don’t happen month to month.

One big question remains: Where are all those government workers going to go?

Dave Wallace, the acting chief economist for Washington State Employment Security, says that although the loss of government jobs won’t continue at the current pace, it can be hard to tell where those employees will end up. “Some of them might be working part time, in which case they might not be considered unemployed. They may be close enough to retirement age, so they could exit the labor force.”

Right now it’s very hard to tell how the unemployment rate will fare over the next couple of months, but the increase in private hiring is a good sign for job hunters hoping to find employment soon.

Jump for the full report.

Written by Wes Simons

August 24, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Venture Capitalists Let Slip That Things Might Stay the Same

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VC Survey Results

The World's Most Boring Graph

Okay, it wasn’t a big information leak. The information came from Washington Technology Industry Association survey of Washington-based venture capitalists released about a week ago. They mostly predicted that growth would be stable or small, not surprising given the economic situation. However, this information is important for Seattle area job seekers because growth usually equals more jobs.

Unfortunately, most of the VC’s polled didn’t think that the companies they funded would be hiring in the next quarter. Susan Sigl, the CEO of the WTIA, had this to say: “Based on our recent survey, the state of the venture capital market in Washington is that of cautious optimism, and as such, most VCs are predicting moderate revenue growth, no lay-offs and very limited hiring within their portfolio companies this quarter.”

Not terribly enlightening, but everyone in the VC funded community can breathe a little easier, that is if people trust the predictions of venture capitalists. While hiring certainly would have been good news, not firing should also be considered a positive.

Sigl also mentioned that VC funded companies aren’t the only employment options in town. “If the nearly 640 jobs posted in the WTIA Job Center are any indication, there are still many non-venture backed companies seeking qualified candidates to fill available positions in our local technology industry,” she says.

A quick look through the listings made one thing clear, Amazon is always looking for new talent, and they aren’t afraid to advertise it.

Written by Wes Simons

August 19, 2010 at 4:19 am

Posted in Who's Hiring

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