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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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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