By Samantha Johnson
Westwind Weekly News
The Windmill Technician Program at Lethbridge College is relatively short in terms of post-secondary education, 9 months, with the bonus that by successfully completing the course, a job is almost guaranteed as there are more jobs available than there are students. It started out as a non-credit program in 2005 and became a college certificate program in 2010 and is currently well-received across Canada, with graduates being hired by all the major companies.
Sheldon Anderson, Dean of Centre for Trades said, ‘Industry demand is extremely high, all students who are successful in the course have the opportunity to work.” If there are more applicants, Anderson stated the program could be expanded. As it is, the College fills the course each year, with two intakes. In September, a larger class of 32 start with another 16 coming in at the beginning of January.
The course is about 50% theory and 50% working in the lab.
“We are the only college in Canada that has a nacelle right in the shop,” explained Anderson. “We have a Vestas B136 nacelle which is the latest (on the market). We’ve had it for just under a year and it is helping with the training as it has the newest electronics.”
According to http://www.windpowerengineering.com, the description of a nacelle is as follows:
“The nacelle is the part of the turbine that houses the components that transform the wind’s kinetic energy into mechanical energy to turn a generator that produces electricity. The nacelle may look impressive from a distance, installed on top of its tall steel or concrete tower, but get closer and you see that utility-scale machines are truly massive. Their nacelles can stretch to over 50-ft long, and weigh up to 300 tons and more depending on the manufacturer and power rating.”
Students in the course learn about the construction of a wind turbine and farm to how the turbine operates and the logistics of running a wind farm.
“They also complete the first year of pre-employment electrician as well, so they write the first year of electrician because there is so much electrical in the turbine and then the rest of the courses are on construction, hydraulics, wind theory and maintenance,” said Anderson.
Lethbridge College also works and has partnerships with lots of the private companies, such as Borea Construction, and Vestas. Anderson said, “we work with lots of industry partners to keep them trained up as well and to provide speciality training for them.”
Jason Donkersgoed, Director, LC Extension, at Lethbridge College explained, “we are in a very fortunate position that we have one of the few nacelles indoors in Canada and that is going to naturally have industry reaching out to us.” The companies have training needs and either want to rent the shop with the nacelle in it or will work with the College to build a program for them. “It’s one of those things (the nacelle) where you open the door and it kind of takes your breath away,” stated Donkersgoed.
Additionally, adds Donkersgoed, “Sheldon (Anderson) and team are continuing stakeholder engagement and trying to understand industry and their needs for all of our programs and so we are naturally talking to industry partners on a regular basis to ensure are programming fits what they need.”
Borea Construction (boreaconstruction.com), whose website states they “have completed more renewable energy construction projects across Canada than any other contractor,” uses Lethbridge College for their corporate training program.
“After they recruit new employees, they come (to the College) for two weeks at a time for a total of six weeks,” said Donkersgoed. The College maintains contact with Borea’s superintendents and coordinators to let them know if the employee(s) showed up, and if they are completing the course successfully.
“What is really interesting is the connection between industry needs and non-traditional credit programming. Credit programming is the base of who we are and is vitally important but industry in general has a whole bunch of needs. We do everything from leadership training, core competency training to technical tsafety training, and first-aid training to help support industry with their existing and new employees,” explained Donkersgoed.
For example, a student might attend Lethbridge College for the Wind Turbine Technician program, complete it, and become employed by one of the wind companies. That wind company might have new needs of training that are shorter and could be on a topic the student didn’t learn in the wind program and that is where Lethbridge College helps industry.
“Most organizations do not have the breadth of knowledge in order to bring adult learning and development together,” explained Donkersgoed. A company might have one person on their HR team with a focus on learning and development but it isn’t viable for them to build an entire program. “We have a team called the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Innovation,” he added, “that is a large team and all they do is build adult learning for our program here at the College and we extend that out to organizations to help them with their learning development needs.”