New Opportunities in Renewable Energy

Texas is currently one of the leaders in the renewable energy field and has positioned itself to remain that way for the next several years to come.  This growing industry is leading to new and high paying jobs for those with the applicable skills and training required.  In 2010, Motivation Education &Training, Inc. (MET) Texas jumped on board the renewable energy trend and formulated a partnership with Amarillo College in Amarillo, Texas to train their NFJP clients in the wind energy field.  Several NFJP participants successfully completed the training program and went on to be hired by local companies working in the wind energy industry throughout north Texas, including Irby Construction which has hired a total of 11 NFJP participants in positions with excellent pay and benefits.

In the past year, MET Texas continued to look for new opportunities for employment in the renewable energy field.  By researching new trends and innovations, Irene Favila, a Workforce Development Coordinator for MET in the Texas Panhandle, who also spearheaded the wind energy training, found there was a growing need for skilled electrical workers.  Companies were coming to the area to install steel towers across the Panhandle that would take electricity from the wind turbines to larger cities.  Irby Construction happened to be one of the companies doing the work.  In December, Irene called Irby proposing the possibility of hiring NFJP participants for this new project.  Steve Roberts, the project manager there was familiar with the impressive reputation of other NFJP participants hired in the past and agreed to hire more of Irene’s clients for electrical work if they could acquire the requisite skills.  Irene set out to find a training program that would be able to train her clients proficiently and in a short time frame.  She found that Western Texas College had an electrical certification program but it required students to have high school diplomas or GEDs, which most farmworkers do not have.  So once again Irene contacted Amarillo College to collaborate on this new effort.   Ron Faulkner, who at the time was the Director of Technical Solutions, agreed it was a good idea.  He consulted with some local power utility companies in order to customize a program which would give students all the skills required to obtain an entry level position in the electric power field.  Once the program’s curriculum was designed, MET formalized a training agreement with Amarillo which covered the costs of instruction, all certificates and licenses earned through the program, physical examinations, textbooks, manuals, and equipment (boots, hard hats, etc.)  for up to 12 students.

The first Electric Power Worker Training Program began in May with nine NFJP participants, including one female, enrolling in the program.  All of the courses are taught by Terry Tucker, an electrical engineer and regular instructor at Amarillo College.   The program includes 424 training hours over a 12 week period.  At the completion of the program, the students will receive their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), forklift driver certification, CPR certification, OSHA certification, as well as training in: Basic Electrical Theory, Electrical Safety and Tools, Environmental Safety and Health, Overhead Distribution and Transmission Operations, and Orientation/Line Skills Fundamentals.  While in training, they are earning a stipend of $7.25 per training hour and are staying in a nearby hotel which MET contracted for their use.  All nine students are scheduled to graduate Thursday, August 16th and are eager to begin working in the field.   Irene says the feedback she has received from the participants is extremely positive and they feel very confident in the skills they have acquired throughout the program.

Irene has kept in contact with Steve Roberts throughout the training process and Irby Construction is still committed to hiring all 9 graduates, starting at an approximate wage of $16 per hour plus a $75 per diem for food and travel while working.  Irene is not taking a break to celebrate this success though, she told me she already begun researching the petroleum industry in the area and what prospects there are for training and employment.   The key to these successful ventures has been collaboration between multiple stakeholders.  The company gets hard working, competent employees, the college expands its training program offerings, and most importantly, the NFJP participants are employed in well paying, stable jobs which provide for them and their families.  Whether NFJPs are large or small, they must think about what collaborations they can initiate to better serve farmworkers.

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