According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fastest growing occupation from 2016 to 2026 is solar photovoltaic installers, followed closely by wind turbine technicians. As energy consumption continues to increase year over year, alternative energy sources are becoming ever more essential to fill demand. Municipalities, businesses and power companies across the nation are turning toward renewable energy for sustainability, with the added benefit of cutting down on pollution. With that change comes the need for skilled workers.
Leading all occupations in growth over the next 8-10 years are solar photovoltaic (PV) installers, with an expected growth rate of 105% by 2026. PV installers assemble, install and maintain solar panel systems located on rooftops of homes and businesses, and on other structures. These trade jobs require an understanding of the complex electrical and mechanical equipment, as well as knowing how electricity works and is distributed.
Wind turbine service technicians, like PV installers, also work in the renewable energy sector. Also known as windtechs, their duties involve assembling, installing, maintaining and repairing wind turbines of all sizes – from the small home turbines to the large industrial versions that rise over a hundred feet high. These positions are expected to grow by 96% during the same decade.
The Electrician Program at Penn Commercial includes an Alternative Energy section which trains students in renewable energies such as wind, solar and geothermal. During this course, students will gain hands-on understanding of the mechanics and operation of windmills and solar panels by constructing photovoltaic panels and turbines, studying the operation of electric vehicles, and participate in turning geothermal energy into electricity.
“We’re very excited about the Alternative Energy section of the Electrician program,” says Robert Bazant, president of Penn Commercial. “We developed a new lab where students will be building solar panels and working with turbines to really gain experience and knowledge in the green energy sector.”
Green jobs are everywhere, especially in Western Pennsylvania. Small businesses all are popping up to retrofit companies and private homes with solar panels, wind turbines and even geothermal energy. Thanks to organizations such as the Green Building Alliance, the commitment to constructing environmentally-conscious buildings around Allegheny County, Washington, Westmoreland and Greene counties has grown substantially.
For instance, the Tower at PNC Plaza on Fifth Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh, completed in October 2015, is one of the greenest high rises ever built. In fact, it exceeds current LEED Platinum Certified Building standards. When the David L. Lawrence Convention Center was completed, it was the largest green building in the world, and the first LEED-certified convention center.
“Construction of new green buildings is happening at a very fast pace,” says Bazant. “Construction in general is growing throughout the region. And that means there are a lot of jobs. Our Electrician students leave school with an incredible knowledge about alternative energy systems to give them an advantage for filling open positions.”