Auston Van Slyke is the Program Director for Ecotech Institute's Wind Energy Technology program. We recently talked with him about the Wind Energy Technology program and how he sees the industry growing in the coming years.
Question: What are you most excited about right now regarding the Wind Energy Technology program?
Auston Van Slyke: We have partnered with Duke Energy to help place our students at power plants across the U.S. Duke Energy is a utility company that is a leader with smart grid technology. They own and operate 60GW of power plants, including solar and wind farms.
Also, Nextera and Xcel Energy allow us to bring our students to see their power plants in operation, to include natural gas, solar and wind farms. We are going on site visits next month.
Question: Tell us about your Wind Energy Technology students and their career ambitions.
Auston Van Slyke: I have a lot of students that are transitioning veterans, looking for a good career move. Military Times named us as one of the top ten military-friendly schools in the country. Some students want to learn how to bring electricity to remote areas or third world countries. Others want to learn and develop a niche skill to test and repair wind turbines. Some have big ambitions of developing their own wind farm.
Question: How does Ecotech Institute help them prepare for their career?
Auston Van Slyke: Ecotech Institute has invested over a million dollars in the latest tools and equipment and we continue to invest in new developments. Ecotech has attracted subject matter experts from the industries to teach the classes.
Question: Talk about the market for skilled wind technicians. What are employers looking for?
Auston Van Slyke: Employers are hungry for wind technicians with a good base of skills, so that they can move up and help the company grow. These are the skills that they get from a two year degree, as opposed to a two week new hire training class.
The U.S. produces more renewable energy than any other country in the world, but we are fighting to keep that title. We are building wind turbines faster than we ever have before right now. All of my students have jobs waiting for them when they graduate.
Question: Tell us about the training technology in the Wind Energy Technology program and how exposure to it helps graduates when they get into the field.
Auston Van Slyke: We have two fully operational wind turbines that have been scaled down for the classroom. This allows our students to use industry tools on industry components. We have also been getting many parts donated to us from some of the largest wind turbine manufactures.
Question: What would be your one message to a potential student who is thinking about a career in wind energy?
Auston Van Slyke: Can you handle the challenge? This is not a career where you can just sit back and skate through work. There is a 300-foot ladder on the way to your office!