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Employers Need Wind Power Technicians

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the robot-surgeon-also-viable dept.

United States 170

Hugh Pickens writes "NPR reports that Oklahoma is one state benefitting from the energy boom. With a wind power rush underway, companies are competing to secure the windiest spots, while breathing life into small towns. The problem is, each turbine requires regular maintenance during its 20-year lifespan, with a requirement of one turbine technician for every 10 turbines on the ground. So even with a job that can pay a good starting salary (for technicians with a GED or high school diploma who complete a four-week turbine maintenance training program), there aren't enough qualified technicians to do the work. 'It seems odd, with America's unemployment problem, to have a shortage of workers for a job that can pay in excess of $20 per hour. But being a turbine technician isn't easy,' says Logan Layden, adding that technicians typically have to climb 300 foot high towers to service the turbines. Oscar Briones is one of about a dozen students who recently finished a maintenance training program after leaving his job as a motorcycle mechanic and now has his pick of employers. 'So I was in the market to find something else to do, and this seemed pretty exciting. Being 300 feet in the air, that's pretty exciting in its self. So yeah, I'm a thrill seeker.'"

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Oscar? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39311311)

What does Oscar have to do with it. Good for him, that he's got a new job. Not really something I care about in this story though.

Re:Oscar? (3, Insightful)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311505)

Here is my thought on that. He is getting into a very very very virgin market. Meaning there are things on Wind Turbines that, as a mechanic, you might come up with to make it safer, more efficient, or more robust. Allowing you to invent and patent possible revelation and thus living an American dream.
I kinda envy these new maintenance people.

Re:Oscar? (3, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311609)

Might as well buy a lottery ticket. Most of the really keen folks who would come up with the next new widget and make a million dollars are already making their mark in other fields. Somewhere they're a smart kid out of work that will take a chance on this job, and come up with something cool. He's one in a thousand. Actually there are a hundred of him out there, in fact. And one of those hundred will make it to the American Dream stage. The other ninety-nine thousand will trudge through with $40k a year until the find another job or retire.

Capitalism is depressing if you're not both innovative AND lucky. But it beats never having a chance at all.

Oh please (4, Insightful)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311323)

If heights is the reason for the lack of people then we have really lost our way. Reference the pictures of the guys building the Empire State Building, are they saying we couldn't get people to do that now? The reality here is either you have an industry that is too new and unorganized, a union that is putting a choke holds on the labor pool, or some other dumb ass bureaucratic reason that is making the country noncompetitive.

Re:Oh please (4, Insightful)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311385)

Ever done manual labor?

Climb up a 300' tower with tools?

I work in a manual labor industry. It's no joke. These guys and gals work hard, and it's not an easy job. The only time you see them is when it's sunny and nice, because that's when you're out walking your dog. How about when it's 31 degrees, freezing rain, and you're knee deep in freezing water? For an 8 hour shift? You're not out there because it's too miserable; you're at home under the blanket watching TV. They're out there working.

Try getting out there, and working at the top of even a 60' bucket truck, in high wind. Now try it at the top of a 300' tower, in freezing cold wind.

If these were union jobs, they'd be going for $40+. The $20/hour thing tells me they're not union.

Re:Oh please (3, Insightful)

data2 (1382587) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311407)

It's a question of the size of turbine. The bigger ones have work benches and everything in the _rooms_ at the top of the towers.

Re:Oh please (2)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311559)

I've never been up a wind turbine tower; I've been up inside water towers. Even out of the wind, you're surrounded by cold steel and it gets downright miserable even after a short while. It just sucks the heat out you.

Re:Oh please (0, Flamebait)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311413)

Oh, and the Empire State thing? They could not get white workers to do that work; they ended up with Mohawk Tribe workers because even in the depression good ole white Americans refused to do the work for any price.

Tell me again how we lost our way?

That's a load of bullshit, sir. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39311617)

You have no idea what you're talking about.

My grandfather, several great-uncles, and even a couple of my uncles were metalworkers who worked on building the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and many other large buildings in NYC and Chicago. They were white. The majority of the construction crews were white. If you don't believe me, look at any of the pictures of the construction workers building the damn skyscrapers, for crying out loud!

Yes, there were Mohawk metalworkers. My relatives spoke very highly of them and their skills. But they weren't hired because they were cheap labor. They were hired because they had a huge amount of experience building bridges. This valuable experience translated very well to building tall skyscrapers. The fact that they were Mohawk was of no concern. It was their knowledge, experience and abilities that mattered.

The racism your post exhibits is absurd. Your unrelenting hatred for white people is absurd. Your misrepresentation of the Mohawk metalworkers is absurd. If America has "lost its way", it's because people today actually believe the bullshit that you're spewing out all over the place.

Re:That's a load of bullshit, sir. (1)

johnnyb (4816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311819)

If I recall correctly, another reason why many construction workers were mohawks is that there is a distinct instinct in them that allowed them to work in high buildings on beams without problems - both lack of fear and an incredible sense of balance. This is pervasive throughout their society, so the easiest way to find someone who can do construction on a skyscraper was to hire out among the Mohawk tribes.

Re:That's a load of bullshit, sir. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39312009)

This is true. Mohawks have a genetic disposition to heights, similar to the Negro abilities in singing and dancing.

Re:That's a load of bullshit, sir. (4, Funny)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312037)

Which do you think is more likely:

(a) Mohawks needed the work and took the dangerous jobs for the money, bringing in friends and relatives who also needed work (see: Irish cops) or
(b) Mohawks have a genetic mutation that makes them unafraid of heights, or
(c) Mohawks are comfortable with heights from their experience shape-shifting into animal forms

Re:That's a load of bullshit, sir. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39312319)

The answer, from multiple choice exams, is (c) all the way down!

Well, back to my McMac job.

Re:That's a load of bullshit, sir. (1)

guanxi (216397) | more than 2 years ago | (#39313041)

As far as I can tell, you are both making it up. Can anyone cite something?

If America has "lost its way", it's because people today actually believe the bullshit that you're spewing out all over the place.

It strikes me that racism by the white majority has been the greatest problem in our nation's history. I don't think talking about it is the problem. Your response is the new political correctness: Mention racism and someone will be sure to try to shut you up.

Re:Oh please (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39311463)

One wonders how many "intellectuals" will line up for these jobs.

None? They obviously think they are too good for it.

Oh, they can write articles about green energy and rail against oil and be so intellectually superior to the knuckle dragging right, but when it comes to getting the job done, all they can do is cower under the covers in their university apartment.

Re:Oh please (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39311707)

Why would anyone working at a university want to downgrade to a $20/hour job? By capitalistic standards, they ARE "too good for it".

It's patently obvious they're superior to you. You're a blooming idiot.

Re:Oh please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39311517)

How about when it's 31 degrees, freezing rain, and you're knee deep in freezing water? For an 8 hour shift?

.. if you add the wind blowing, does it become a blow job?

Re:Oh please (0)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312203)

Sure it's an easy job. Easier than getting shot at, or having to deal with some drugged up smack head. Or kiddie diddlers, or seeing someones entrails bloated across half their room.

To be honest though, they should be saving the money. Germany is a fine indication of where this will end up. No where fast with all those specialized people right back out of work in about two years.

Re:Oh please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39312439)

How about when it's 31 degrees, freezing rain, and you're knee deep in freezing water?

I think, if you're at the top of "a 300' tower" and you're still "knee deep" in water, that the second Flood has come, and you're gonna have more important things than your job to worry about soon.

Re:Oh please (4, Insightful)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312881)

Exactly. I'm sick of industries whining about labor shortages instead of raising the fucking pay.

Re:Oh please (4, Insightful)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311403)

You need to turn your bullshit filter on ... what they say there is a lack of workers, what they mean is they don't really want to pay 20$ an hour.

Re:Oh please (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311577)

You need to turn your bullshit filter on ... what they say there is a lack of workers, what they mean is they don't really want to pay 20$ an hour.

If they don't want to pay $20/hr, then they should be saying there are too many workers. Because a shortage of labor means that the wages are too low and are under equilibrium.

Re:Oh please (1)

beltsbear (2489652) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311621)

Agreed. $20 an hour is less then what trash collectors and janitors around here. $30 seems like it would be the starting point for this work.

Re:Oh please (4, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311713)

Agreed. $20 an hour is less then what trash collectors and janitors around here. $30 seems like it would be the starting point for this work.

Google around a bit and you'll find skilled ironworkers seem to average about $30. $20 is a bit too low for apprentices, there are some ultra low rate areas where $20 would be decent apprentice wage but "most areas" seem to pull just a little more, low twenties is about right.

Hmm. If I wanted to climb giant metal structures and get all sweaty, the free market wage for a generic iron worker is about $30/hr, or I could go in the green industry and starve my children on $20/hr. Golly I wonder which I would select?

Electricians get paid a little more than ironworkers, so entering the field in that direction doesn't work.

Its a very limited supply of workers... Not unskilled labor, takes years to figure out what you're doing. Its a young mans game (I'm too old, and I'm not that old...) and you need what by American standards is excellent physical fitness, and you need to not be a follower, because the followers all went to college and graduated with a diploma in multicultural studies, $100K in debt, and a coffee barrista job to pay it off, and you have to be at least median to above median smart to literally survive the job.

Re:Oh please (2)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312371)

$20/hr isn't bad pay in rural Oklahoma. Zillow yourself a nice house out there... it looks like $80K will buy a whole lot more house than I got (for $80K) when I was single and earning $37K/yr.

Re:Oh please (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39312709)

Except, that only works if all else is equal. If your skills can net you $30/hr in the same area, then yes, $20/hr *is* bad pay in that area.

Re:Oh please (4, Insightful)

magarity (164372) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311421)

If heights is the reason for the lack of people then we have really lost our way. Reference the pictures of the guys building the Empire State Building, are they saying we couldn't get people to do that now?

The Empire State workers didn't go through modern public school's 12 years of "Rah rah rah! I'm great for no particular reason!"

Re:Oh please (1)

JazzHarper (745403) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311435)

The reality here is either you have an industry that is too new and unorganized, a union that is putting a choke holds on the labor pool, or some other dumb ass bureaucratic reason that is making the country noncompetitive.

D. All of the above.

Re:Oh please (2)

buglista (1967502) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311641)

Watch this and tell me that 20 bucks/hour is enough for working on those sort of structures. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2A_h2AjJaMw [youtube.com]

Re:Oh please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39312671)

I had no idea it was like THAT. WOW! I would not be willing to risk that without much more incentive than they're getting. I always assumed there would be safety up to wazoo, but apparently not. Also, the part with him standing on top of the tower with no safety? I was under the impression that the winds were quite strong at that height.

Re:Oh please (2)

FairAndHateful (2522378) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312999)

Watch this and tell me that 20 bucks/hour is enough for working on those sort of structures. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2A_h2AjJaMw [youtube.com]

Those are transmission towers. Structurally not the same at all. A lot of wind turbine towers, you climb up on the inside of them [youtube.com] . It's still demanding as hell, and a lot of work, but it's a little less freaky than the transmission towers.

Re:Oh please (1)

drooling-dog (189103) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312505)

a union that is putting a choke holds on the labor pool

Please, tell us more...

Re:Oh please (1, Troll)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312787)

Do you understand the concept of liability insurance?

Insurance companies do not want people doing this kind of work and they will make it difficult for anyone to hire people to do it. The reason is that is high risk and it is going to be expensive for an insurance company. Partly because they are going to have to pay out to either a beneficiary or lawyers when someone gets hurt or killed - and it is an absolute certainty someone will be hurt or killed.

The problem isn't so much the worker but their family. Someone pops up and manages to convince a lawyer to take their case on contingency to sue the maintenance company for not properly disclosing the risks or having them work under difficult conditions or some other silliness. The end result is it just costs money to make it go away one way or another.

Same problem with roofers. Talk to an insurance person about roofers. They do not want to insure them and state worker's compensation insurance is so expensive that it makes it almost impractical to own a roofing company. Almost. But trust me, nobody wants to get into that business today.

Sounds Good. (5, Insightful)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311331)

I don't climb the towers for our radio stations. I know a few maintenance engineers who do, but they're rare. Tower crews get thousands of dollars per day to do the climbing. Just to relamp our 350' towers at one of our stations costs about $750 per (and we have 5 of them).

So yeah, I can imagine that they're looking for people who will climb 300' towers for $20 an hour. Good luck with that. :)

The law of unintended consequences has a corollary: unintended *costs.*

Re:Sounds Good. (2)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311509)

Every now and again I see jobs advertised for tower climbers. And they typically state that don't even think about applying if you have never done it before. They must get a lot of people applying you think that climbing a tower is easy.

Re:Sounds Good. (5, Interesting)

grumling (94709) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311553)

Back when I climbed telephone poles for a living (and had the body that goes along with it), I regularly climbed towers for our amateur radio repeater network. Once you're in place and tied down, the work is actually fairly easy. But we had a lot of ground support (and ropes and pulleys) to do the heavy lifting. But the first time you go above 50 feet or so it gets a little unnerving.

Re:Sounds Good. (5, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311747)

I regularly climbed towers for our amateur radio repeater network

Been there done that although I am more of a weak signal VHF operator.

Another issue is also the weather. Light breeze with two feet on the ground turns into OMG freaking hurricane 100 feet up. Both psychologically and meteorologically. Hams have the luxury of waiting for a perfectly calm day. The real tower workers earn their dough on the bad weather days.

Re:Sounds Good. (2)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312407)

I knew an electrician who climbed poles to shut off power at the transformer. Well, he'd do that if he had to, most times he'd rather work on live 220V 100A service wires instead of climbing the pole, twice, to switch the breaker.

Re:Sounds Good. (2)

nojayuk (567177) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312453)

I climbed towers a couple of times in my youth to carry out repeater work, rigging antennas and stringing cable. Highest was, as I recall about 400 feet up a 1000 foot mast. I didn't have any fear of falling since the pro rigger I was working showed me how to do it safely with a three-points attachment to my harness etc. As he explained if I fell I might hurt someone on the ground when I landed but I'd be already dead from hitting all the bits of the tower I would bounce off on the way down.

Re:Sounds Good. (4, Insightful)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311965)

And here's the thing ... Jim, the guy who runs the tower company that we use, is always looking for experienced climbers. So, how long will it be before tower companies start raiding these $20 an hour guys, promising more money and better benefits? :)

These wind turbine people didn't think their fiendishly-clever plan all the way through. You ALWAYS factor the cost of maintenance into a business plan. ALWAYS.

It might actually have been cheaper to build the turbines so that the assembly could be raised and lowered for service. Would have cost more up front, but would have saved in the long run. Heck, ham operators have been doing that with their antennas for decades. :)

... and it looks something like this (2)

l00sr (266426) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311597)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2A_h2AjJaMw [youtube.com] .

Also, it occurs to me that the guys who climb 300' towers should be paid just as much as the 2000' towers, since you're just as screwed in the event of a fall.

The 2000' tower fall would be much worse.... (2)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311675)

...in that you have that much longer to think about what's coming.

Re:Sounds Good. (5, Informative)

hot soldering iron (800102) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311761)

Working my way through college in Kansas, I worked for the college as a student employee. One part of my job was to climb the towers for maintenance. We had several 50 footers, a couple hundred footers, and the main tower was 500 feet. I actually had a plane circle the tower below me one day while changing a light bulb.

As a student employee, I had very little skills or knowledge, and a bit of competition for any job. I got paid $7.50/hr wither I was sitting at a workbench or climbing a tower. God, I was so stupid. Carrying tools up was like weightlifting on a StairMaster with the chance that somebody would put a bullet in your head at any second. The tower had been there about 7 years, and most of the guys that had erected it were dead. There is an incredible mortality rate for tower workers. One of my friends was climbing when a chunk of ice fell and hit his hard hat, almost knocking him unconscious. There were so many dangers, it was literally "criminal" to put an uninformed kid on it. You could die from falling (blown off or a rung rust through underneath the paint), electrocution (you're on the tallest metallic structure for miles, and lightning strikes even in clear skies), and impacts (falling ice and broken metal parts or antennas).

Back in the early '90s the going rate for tower climbing was a buck a foot, and it would take a full hour to climb and descend the 500 footer. So $20/hr to go up, fix it, and climb down? Kiss my ass. I have skills and experience now, I don't have to risk my life for that insultingly small amount of money anymore.

Re:Sounds Good. (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312415)

I don't have to risk my life for that insultingly small amount of money anymore.

Look up P.T. Barnum - famous quotes.

hmm (4, Insightful)

chickenrob (696532) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311357)

There are over 1000 electricians out of work in my local electrical union. Any of us would be glad to do that work, but they are not willing to pay qualified electricians to do the work.

Re:hmm (2, Insightful)

Kangburra (911213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311391)

Isn't $20 an hour better than no job at all? Or is there some reason the electricians can't work for that amount?

Re:hmm (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39311427)

Unemployment pays better.

Re:hmm (2)

berashith (222128) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311441)

i think you may have skipped over the part that says union.

Re:hmm (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39311673)

Isn't $20 an hour better than no job at all? Or is there some reason the electricians can't work for that amount?

Do you know what it costs to relocate to Podunk, Oklahoma? Would you uproot your family, move cross-country to a place where there are no other jobs, for less than you're capable of making where you are?

Re:hmm (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311769)

Isn't $20 an hour better than no job at all? Or is there some reason the electricians can't work for that amount?

People like to say that your life and health are priceless, but as a group the wear and tear on the body and odds of not making it home alive have, as a group, determined its worth more than $20...

Re:hmm (2)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311779)

Isn't $20 an hour better than no job at all? Or is there some reason the electricians can't work for that amount?

A good electrician can easily pull $65/hr around here. Some of them make upwards of $85/hr.

Unemployment insurance pays better.

Re:hmm (1, Interesting)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312915)

Unemployment insurance pays better.

So once again socialists scuttle renewable energy along with every other beneficial aspect of capitalism.

Re:hmm (2)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312517)

Isn't $20 an hour better than no job at all? Or is there some reason the electricians can't work for that amount?

$20 an hour to climb up a potentially dangerous 300 foot tower? Yeah sounds like a great idea. The company that maintains the tower just doesn't want to shell out hazard pay. Instead they can bitch and moan about how "no Americans want to do the job, we have to bring in underpaid workers from 3rd world countries!"

Re:hmm (2)

gambino21 (809810) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311433)

So you would rather have no job than take a pay cut? I agree that $20 per hour is not great, but why not take the lower paying job until you can find something better?

Re:hmm (5, Interesting)

chill (34294) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311515)

Because if you do that, nothing better will come along. The rate for the jobs that come along will start to align with the lower rates.

This is what caused the unions to form to begin with. Large, dangerous industry like mining and manufacturing, paid enough for people to survive but not enough for them to ever prosper. It was a form of "voluntary" indentured servitude.

If everyone got together and demanded better conditions or raises, they would get fired and replaced with the never-ending line of people desperate just to survive. Only by striking and creating a picket line to actually shut down business would any real change ever get made.

For a modern example, see the stories on Foxcon and China. We in the West gape in horror at the working conditions and pittance for wages. But compared to the other options -- subsistence farming, etc. -- it is fantastic. If a worker doesn't toe the line, they're fired and replaced with any one of the teeming masses desperate to escape the crushing poverty they now live in.

Yes, it can go too far. See the auto industry and the various stories about Teacher's unions where people clock in, then punch out for a 5 hour lunch, etc.

But the whole "take the cut for now because something better will come along" doesn't scale.

Re:hmm (3, Interesting)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311547)

But the whole "take the cut for now because something better will come along" doesn't scale.

Exactly. Once an employer knows that they can hire someone from a cheaper pool, they will happily lay off the well-paid workers and hire form the cheap pool. And along the way strip benefits.

It doesn't go the other way, though - employers won't raise wages as long as there's any hope of hiring from the cheap pool. That's why middle class wages have been stagnant for 20 years, while the wealthiest have seen their income skyrocket.

So yes, if you're qualified, hold out for the higher paying job if you can.

Re:hmm (2, Insightful)

johnnyb (4816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311887)

Yes, this usually happens when the employees have been milking the companies. That's actually what is happening now. This is why people are willing to go to cheap labor. If your current work crew isn't performing well, you might as well hire out for cheaper. If your workers are good at what they do and work hard, then the employer won't hire to the cheap pool, because the cheap pool isn't equivalent.

Where I work, we sometimes bid a job for 4x what other firms bid it out for. But many companies still hire us. Why? Because they know that it will cost more in the long run if they go with people who aren't as competent to do the work.

Middle class wages are stagnant because (a) middle class workers are slacking, and (b) the government is eating up any possible extra money, and (c) inflating the currency enough to make savings worthless.

If the well-paid workers aren't any better than the cheaper pool, why *should* they be earning more money? Also remember that the split between a "worker" and an "owner" is purely voluntary - any of those workers could themselves be owners, but have chosen not to be. Money is not a right. You must work to earn your keep.

Re:hmm (4, Insightful)

chill (34294) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312233)

Middle class wages are stagnant because (a) middle class workers are slacking, and (b) the government is eating up any possible extra money, and (c) inflating the currency enough to make savings worthless.

A and B are factually incorrect. Productivity in the United States has been on a constant rise for the last 60 years. This would directly contradict A because it indicates more and more output is being produced by the workers.

The total tax rate on people is lower now than practically anytime in the last 50 years.

C is totally true, though. That an real inflation -- the cost of food, housing, energy, etc. -- has increased to keep pace with wage inflation. This makes it next to impossible to accept lower wages and actually keep your home/car. Unfortunately, with the housing market as is, moving isn't really much of an option. The housing crash has seriously curtailed the mobility of the workforce.

Re:hmm (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312479)

The towers could be safer, they could have interior stairs or even elevators. At some point, the extra hazard pay demanded by tower workers will begin to offset the cost of making safer towers. Also, stronger, safer towers will have a longer service lifetime. Balance will be found - $500/barrel oil will make safer towers cheaper still, by comparison.

Re:hmm (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311531)

It is very possible that as soon as a union member takes a non-uninion job they are put on scab status and will never be able to work a union job again. If not officially then by convention.

Re:hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39311867)

A hazard job, of you falling down the tower, being in icy rain and wind conditions...
Something tells me you are in IT, just like me. 20USD per hour is a joke.
Here in Europe, I keep hearing about the same type of complaint about finding skilled IT workers.
How about paying a salary that is reasonable for the job required.

You should be in politics.

Re:hmm (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39311489)

Because they do not need "qualified" electricians to do mechanical maintenance. The job pays what the job entails, regardless of the skill set of the worker.

This is what all jobs should do, including school teachers with PhD teaching 5th grade. That is really nice that you have a PhD, but a 5th grade teacher gets paid $X. This kind of mindset has gotten us to some of the problems we face. If need some to wire a building, then I definitely want a qualified electrician and am willing to pay the appropriate price for the work to be done right. However, I am not going to call you out to change a light bulb or plug in a lamp.

Corporate Propaganda (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39311375)

The article is trying to get the public to get behind the idea of wind power by promising jobs.

This is just an industry puff piece.

BTW: here in Denver, entry-level shelf stockers at Costco get $19, so I don't know if $20 an hour is all that phenomenal.

Re:Corporate Propaganda (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39311431)

BTW: here in Denver, entry-level shelf stockers at Costco get $19, so I don't know if $20 an hour is all that phenomenal.

I wonder how much shelf stockers get paid in Oklahoma? $20 an hour in OK may be awesome money.

Industry puff piece? On NPR?

I think it's great that the industry is telling folks that they need people so folks who are able can go for the training and get a job.

Wind power, at least in this country, is just starting to contribute a larger part of our energy needs - in the past, you didn't here much about it other than "look what can be done" type of thing. And it's growing. I would never have thought that there was a demand for techs.

Re:Corporate Propaganda (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39311647)

It's "green industry" and runs on government subsidies, so of course NPR would be all in favor. When the subsidies run out, so will the jobs.

It's just an average-paying job (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39311401)

'It seems odd, with America's unemployment problem, to have a shortage of workers for a job that can pay in excess of $20 per hour.

Actually, the average income in the US is $40000 per year, which is about $20 per hour. So, the job is only paying the national average. That's why it's not attracting people from out-of-state, even though the pay is above-average for the state of Oklahoma. See the statistics at http://bber.unm.edu/econ/us-pci.htm [unm.edu] .

Move for a $40K/yr job? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39311419)

Ok, I guess I'm dumb, but I'd not leave my current $120K+ job in a city I like (without any wind power) to move to the midwest (I've lived in the midwest and visited OK for a few months), for a $40K job.

Not likely. I doubt most high school grads over 25 would do that either. 80% of the people under 25 will never leave whatever town they were raised in unless it really sucked or they were already from a dying town. OTOH, if they were from a small town already in the midwest, then getting the training and taking the job makes perfect sense. It is better than working in a restaruant and it gets them away from the girlfriend who they've been stuck with all these years. These are the same people who got to Alaska to work in the canneries every year, thinking they will find adventure. go guys, go!

Re:Move for a $40K/yr job? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311565)

"but I'd not leave my current $120K+ job in a city"

See, that's not who they're looking for. If you're making $60/hr and have a job, you're not really the ideal candidate. There are something like 15 million workers in the US who currently have near-zero income. Of those 15 million, apparently none of them are interested in this as a job, despite wages which are $20/hr more than they are currently getting paid.

I wouldn't be surprised if 80% of those people could not, for one reason or another, do this job. That only leaves 3 million. If 99% of them aren't willing or able to relocate, that still leaves 30,000 people. And yet the candidate pool doesn't even appear to be that deep.

Re:Move for a $40K/yr job? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311849)

...that still leaves 30,000 people. And yet the candidate pool doesn't even appear to be that deep.

They're the dotcom workers of the 2010s and they know it and they're not playing along.

For better or worse you're only as good as the last job on your resume... and if that is a dead industry then its soylent green time for you. On the other hand, if the last job on your resume is "real", lets say "Car Mechanic" or "Carpenter", although you're momentarily unemployed, the odds of being hired in the future are pretty good.

Would I go into a bubbly industry knowing it'll only last a couple years and then I'll never be employable again anywhere at any rate in the future... if I'm 60 then hell yes. The problem is this job requires the physique of a 20-something and they don't want to spend their 30s-60s unemployed.

Re:Move for a $40K/yr job? (1)

michael_cain (66650) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312103)

And yet the candidate pool doesn't even appear to be that deep.

Bear in mind where you're talking about relocating to. I've written about this before [blogspot.com] . The big wind farms like these are going up on the Great Plains which have been in a depopulating spiral for decades. Groceries may be 25 miles from where you live. The nearest health care may be 50 miles away, and the nearest specialist in a particular field you need 100 miles. The school systems and other public services are collapsing. Or alternatively, you live where there are still services and drive 50-60 miles each way to work.

For the large majority of the unemployed, who haven't grown up there, it looks like tossing most of your life away for $20/hour.

Well ... (1)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311449)

Just reading the headline I initially assumed it to be a project to harness that hot air produced by all those MBAs.

http://xxdevil.narod2.ru/ (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39311453)

http://xxdevil.narod2.ru/
http://xxdevil.blogspot.com/

Nursing shortage too (2)

deodiaus2 (980169) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311455)

I have heard that there is a nursing shortage too., but that the problem was that there was a shortage of qualified and experienced nurses. Newly graduated nurses apprently were not qualified to do serious work, and as such there is a glut of entry level nurses.
Maybe this is true, but the economy has been bad for years now, and I am sure that if there were sufficient job demand, enough people would retool. I hear that one big problem for returning vets is finding job. I think that if you were willing to serve in a battlefield getting shot at by snipers, a 300 foot climb is no big deal for a vet in his 20-30's. If the training program only lasts 4 week, I think this need can be met very easily.
I see too many stories and anecdotal studies without serious proof. Show me 10K craiglistings for such positions?

Re:Nursing shortage too (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39311499)

Speaking as someone who is in medicine but not a nurse, the issue is two fold. First, hospital administration is petrified of new graduates, so it doesn't matter if there's a million new grad rn's hospitals won't take a chance on them unless they're really, really desperate. Second, hospitals in their for profit wisdom (non-profits do this too) have decided to slash the pay offered to these experienced nurses to the point they've told these shit employers to pound sand.

See how it works? We won't pay you what you're worth (a good rn is worth more than a mediocre md) yet we won't hire the new generation so we can run around waving our hands in the air shouting "shortage shortage!"

People wonder why we're going to hell in a hand basket.

Re:Nursing shortage too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39311917)

This is exactly my comment, but I'm sure nobody will care to read it.

I used to have a slashdot id that was in the xxxxx range, but never got it back due to an email domain swap.
Never bothered getting one back.

If I had mod points, I'd vote for you!

Re:Nursing shortage too (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312935)

It's not a shortage of nurses, it's an over-supply of the elderly.

In my somewhat cynical oppinion (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39311469)

All these "Industry X facing chronic shortage of qualified Y" stories can typically be translated to either:

"Profession Y is well paid, and we would like to drive down those wages by saturating the market with graduates"
"Profession Y is a niche / dying trade that we rely on, but running training schemes / apprenticeships hurts our quarterly returns"

In both cases Y tends to be industry specific engineers

Dirty Jobs (4, Interesting)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311497)

Mike Rowe did an episode of Wind Farm technician. Fascinating show. And proved that I'd hate to do it. It wasn't the climbing the ladder, or standing on top of it that was the problem. The nacelles are only just big enough to fit the generator and leave enough room for a midget to crawl around and do the servicing.

The big laugh in that episode was one of the techs telling a story of a snake in the nacelle. Apparently it had crawled in there during construction when the nacelle was on the ground and then rode it all the way to the top.

I can't find a link to the actual video, but it was Season 3 episode 31, "Wind Farm Technician".

Re:Dirty Jobs (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311587)

Most on-site manual labor jobs suck no matter how you look at them. A lot of white collar jobs suck in a different way. Unless you're in the top 10% of any white collar field, your job most likely sucks, because all the really cool jobs have been taken by that 10%.

The key is most jobs suck because, hey, they're jobs. If they weren't they'd be hobbies, and you'd either love them or you'd go do something else.

Re:Dirty Jobs (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311611)

The key is most jobs suck because, hey, they're jobs.

I know jobs have their own suck factors. I'm sure being a jockey sucks in its own way, but I'm not physically suited to be a jockey.

Re:Dirty Jobs (1)

sci-ku (2526824) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311951)

Thanks for the heads up on Dirty Jobs. I'm eager to watch that episode!

Just found it on Netflix streaming - Collection 4, episode 13, for any others interested.

Re:Dirty Jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39312015)

Season 4 episode 15, with a link here: http://www.tubeplus.me/movie/862330/Dirty_Jobs/season_4/episode_15/Wind_Farm_Technician/%22

Abandoned wind farms (0)

jvillain (546827) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311535)

With the high number of abandoned wind farms I can't say I like the job security aspects of this. It might make a good summer job but I sure wouldn't plan a career around it.

Re:Abandoned wind farms (3, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311877)

With the high number of abandoned wind farms I can't say I like the job security aspects of this. It might make a good summer job but I sure wouldn't plan a career around it.

Its also a capital intensive job. Back in the early 80s a cool blue collar "retraining" job was cable TV installer. The local vo-tech school had classes and graduated at least a hundred. Once all the hardline was strung up or buried, then.... From personal knowledge there are only about two dozen techs in that field in my area. What happened to the hundred or so other grads? Probably getting career advice to go into the (currently) lucrative windmill business. Endless bubble chasing, thats all the US has to offer anymore.

Retraining is a profitable industry all by itself. Much like the gold rush gold miners never made much money, but the general store types made fat stacks of cash, the place to make money in the windmill industry is in windmill industry training classes, not in windmills themselves.

Jumping the tech gun again (1)

cellocgw (617879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311541)

I'm still skeptical that large windmill-style wind generators are the best choice either from a TCO or side-effect point of view. Certainly if I were going to put something on my own land, I'd do same careful life-cycle studies as well as both audio and ground-vibration studies. I would like to see more about vertical turbines, which certainly have a smaller volume requirement and are supposedly much quieter.

4 week training? (5, Insightful)

Drakin (415182) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311677)

I'm thinking these folks are underpaid & under trained.

I got more training that that as a newly hired first year apprentice with my power company, on top of my apprenticeship board required education. And I still had to work under direct supervision until I got my journeyman ticket.

Unless there's a lot more to it, they're likely not qualified, and you'll see the electrical and mechanical trades start a fuss over it.

Re:4 week training? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39311909)

I'm thinking these folks are underpaid & under trained.

Mod parent up, Insightful.

To climb a 300' tower and risk your life inside a small room with a spinning rotor holding more inertia than your entire body could handle, let alone a finger or hand (as is likely to get caught in it if anything does) is a massive amount of risk and work. $20/hour is disgusting for something that has no overhead aside from startup costs and maintenance - these guys are certainly underpaid, and the free market is a very simple thing when it comes to labor: if you can't attract the talent, increase the wages.

more jobs need a training program. Not BA, MA, PHD (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39311679)

That is part of the unemployment problem as well. When you have schools turning out BA, MA, PHD with out the right skills but that same time you have people with out a BA or people with a AA from a tech or community college with alot more skills can't get a tech job do to the lack of BA's or higher.

Experience (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39311995)

I am a wind tech. I service and repair these towers. You either are in shape, or will be in shape soon climbing the towers. I climb up to 3 towers a day. The job is extremely cold (or hot, depending on the season), and the work is dangerous. I work directly with power magnitudes from 24DC to 1042DC, and 24AC 1phase up to 690v 3phase. I DO get more than $25 an hour, and most weeks I get about 65 hours. My training includes 2 years schooling, 4 weeks basic classroom tower training, 2 weeks advanced classroom diagnostics training, and 6 months supervised OJT training.
Despite the above, qualified technicians are difficult to find and hire. The companies that hire under-qualified persons (such as exampled in the article) are not worried about their turbine reliability, or their employees.
BTW, most turbine techs around my area get $15 an hour or less.

Re:Experience (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312303)

Where are most of these jobs relative to population centers? Part of the problem may be that there just aren't that many people who are already living out in the boondocks, or willing to relocate there who aren't already gainfully employed.

Good lord slashdot is out of touch (1)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312151)

$20/hr starting salary is roughly 40k a year. Not bad for a entry level position that doesn't require a degree. As to the 4 weeks training remember these are entry level. It seems for some reason the industry has a 1:10 ratio of people to towers, whether that's an actual number of implied by the job postings and number of turbines is unclear. This is an overall number, it doesn't mean that 1 person baby sits his/her 10 towers and is qualified for all situations. Depending what is wrong they'll bring in the people they think can do the job. At $250k+ the company isn't going to just let people have at them. As for the safety, seriously, there was a time when children used to climb into machinery to fix it. Not saying that was right, but good lord have we become boring and unadventerous. Many people actually enjoy heights, or the sense of a little bit of danger. And lets be real here, you don't see on the news every night tales of workers falling to their deaths off of windtowers. The dangers are more perceived than actual assuming the proper procedures are followed. If some of you are married you better watch out, because your wife may at some point look at you, and then look at this guy with a somewhat exciting job 300' in the air and make a rash decision some night.

Re:Good lord slashdot is out of touch (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312251)

I wouldn't say they're out of touch. But the major if people on /. work in cities that pay much more. Hell, my first years mechanic apprenticeship paid $2.25/hr, this would be paid right up to my 3rd year. And in my 4th year I'd be at min. wage at the time or $6.85/hr. Of course I had to buy all my tools on a $2.25/hr salary too. Luckily now, the government will co-pay or give you an low interest loan via the banks for it. This is going back oh 15-16 years ago but the trade skills still don't pay squat. My 2nd cousin finished his diesel mechanics cert two years ago, done on 3 years instead of 4. But he was making $5.85/hr and spent $25k on tools in the first two years. The min. wage here is $10.25

I wouldn't start making money until my 5th year, around $10.85 at the time. To be honest I said to hell with it, and took another 8 years to offly-oddly finish my apprenticeship as I felt like it.

More than $20/hr? (1)

Baron_Yam (643147) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312299)

Wow. What's that, $40k/year?

Why would you bother being a turbine jockey when you could be a tower jockey and get paid a hell of a lot more to fix radio antennas?

Re:More than $20/hr? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39312703)

Well it is not the same job or skills required.
On a wind turbine you normally work inside, and are protected from the weather, and the tower is fitted with a lift so you don't have to climb all the way.
The turbines I have been working on all have the hub accessible from the inside.

The work on a wind turbine has many sides ranging from
- Constructing and erecting, replacing main components, including heavy lifting, and using very high pressure hydraulic tools to torque bolts.
- Ordinary service cleaning and pumping grease.
- Trouble shouting on hydraulics, power electronics, sensors, and microcontrollers. (My area am a Bs. EE.)

It is also have different safety aspects:
On an antenna I would say that the greatest danger is weather, and falling.

On a wind turbine it's:
- Working in confined spaces and getting squashed by moving parts. (Pitch, drive train, Yaw movements, remember that a wind turbine does not necessary get safe when power is removed since the wind is still there.)
- Electrocution, high voltage (Actually medium voltage), very high prospective short circuit currents Ik=50000A!
- Hydraulic oil under pressure, a leak can cut you flesh of the bone, and poison you.

Why climb? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39312681)

I saw a story about turbines off the Dutch coast. They would use a boat to get to each turbine, then tie it up (lock it up too), and then access a small hatch at the base of each turbine. You climb into the hatch, and its an elevator that takes you 300 feet up (tools too). You then work on the turbine, then ride the little elevator down. The elevator is round (fitting the shape of the tower) and about 5 feet in diameter. Its electrically operated, and connected to the big grid, so that even if the local turbine is offline, everything still works. Given that the north sea can be dangerous with wind and high waves, climbing 300 feet was never a good idea anyway. Being inside and riding up is a safer, drier way to get the job done. (At the bottom and top there are platforms to allow safe working conditions). You can still fall, but its a lot harder as the top is basically a cage, so even if its all covered in ice, the worst that can happen is you slip and fall (3 feet) even without being tied off.

every single story like this is a lie (2)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312749)

every time you hear about 'shortage in industry x', what it really means is that 'industry is trying to lower wages".

why would they want to lower wages? so that they can return more profit to their shareholders, which are big funds and investment banks. it has nothing, whatsoever, to do with a 'labor shortage'. remember the invisible hand of the market? it should take care of 'shortages' just fine. it is funny to see the capitalists decide that capitalistic theory is not 'good enough' for their profit margin, and they need to grease the wheels with massive media campaigns and PR initiatives.

then why are there mass layoffs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39312871)

Half my family is in the wind industry, and everyone was laid off last year do to lack of work in the US and Canada. My dad's new job is breaking down and relocating a natural gas plant for 18 months, because there are no international wind jobs to bid on.

I see your problem right there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39312877)

$20/hr isn't enough to go 300 ft. in the air. The pay should be comparable to crane operators, which I'm pretty sure earn a lot more. It's not like a turbine has never blown up either. It may or may not be as safe as crane operation as these things begin to age.

OK, crane operators earn $39/hr in Washington DC and $82/hr. Even laborers earn $25/hr in Washington DC. That's probably union pay but if you have the skills and don't mind climbing a tower... which job are you going to persue?

Also the suits are thinking "Oklahoma is a cheap place to live" but many of the workers are thinking "Oklahoma is a boring place to live", unless the already live there. Not as many people live there as on the East coast. Not by far. Also, if you lose your construction job on the east coast your odds of finding another one when the economy picks up are better, and you won't have to move.

I have an uncle who operated machinery in New Jersey. He never moved his whole career. Drove 2 hours to a job site, yeah. Move? Nope. Stayed there his whole career.

$20/hr to go to Oklahoma and possibly have to move, and not be able to clean yourself up and take the wife to the Opera? Fuggedaboutit. They should pay MORE than in New Jersey, not less.

Maybe not such a good choice? (1)

arpad1 (458649) | more than 2 years ago | (#39312889)

I wonder about the long-term viability of such jobs.

Inasmuch as wind power is utterly dependent on subsidies that means the jobs are dependent on the political fortunes of the "green" lobby and the various parasitic, private sector entities that feed off their political power, the industry would disappear if the influence of the "green" lobby declines.

It doesn't happen every day but there are more then a few cases of industries, no longer viable or no longer viable in America, using political power to maintain themselves only to see their subsidies zero out when their political power wanes.

The psychtric diagnoses and barrage of invective may now commence.

Re:Maybe not such a good choice? (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 2 years ago | (#39313013)

wind power is utterly dependent on subsidies

That's not even true. Fossil fuels receive much more subsidies in the form of socialized health costs, military expenditures, and inter-generational debt transfer.

http://cleantechnica.com/2011/05/01/cost-of-wind-power-kicks-coals-butt-better-than-natural-gas-could-power-your-ev-for-0-70gallon/ [cleantechnica.com]

I wonder about the long-term viability of (renewable energy)

psychtric diagnoses

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